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Growth and Mineral Nutrition of Field Crops.

Growth and Mineral Nutrition of Field Crops. N. K. FAGERIA, V. C. BALIGAR, AND CHARLES ALAN JONES. Marcel Dekker, Inc., 270 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016-0602. 1997. Hardback, 624 pp., $195. ISBN 0-824-70089-9.

This is a reference book intended for professors, researchers, students, and extension personnel studying soil fertility, plant nutrition, crop breeding, crop physiology, or crop production. Crop growth and mineral nutrition are treated separately in other books while these authors present a one-book version. This makes for a succinct presentation for some subjects and an inadequate one for others. The book is useful for its audience, but only if an introductory presentation of subject material is desired. I enjoyed reading a review of cotton that took only 17 pages. Another chapter on mineral nutrition was incomplete. Lead author Fageria is the sole author of Maximizing Crop Yields (Marcel Dekker, 1992).

The first chapter is introductory `Field crops and mineral nutrition,' and the second chapter addresses `Factors affecting production of field crops.' Later chapters are devoted to particular crops and include specific information regarding the production factors discussed in this chapter. The third chapter is an overview of `Nutrient flux in soil-plant systems.' Uptake kinetics and effects of mass flow, diffusion, and root interception are discussed, but are standard fare and presented in many textbooks today. The following chapter addresses `Diagnostic techniques for nutritional disorders.' There is an eclectism to this book with sections ranging from the extension service in the second chapter to methods for the destruction of organic matter in this chapter. The organic-matter digestion section is unnecessary, especially since newer methods of microwave digestions, S analyses by ICP, and combustion-method N analyzers are not mentioned. Another section from this chapter is valuable and discusses variability associated with nutrient analyses and what constitutes tolerable error, a topic often forgotten among researchers who want the most accurate and most precise analyses available--even if it is unrealistic and inefficient. A useful table is given for methods to correct all nutrient deficiencies and the tolerance of plant foliage to nutrient sprays.

A new chapter in this second edition is `Nutrient management of degraded soils.' The authors use the first person style `we' here. I welcome this as I expect experts (and these authors are well published and experienced) to interpret and evaluate subjects in dispute. Elsewhere in the book, references from general texts dominate and this provides little clue as to the authors' interpretation of the literature or whether the literature was critically reviewed. The degradation chapter includes a panoply of topics covered in 47 pages: diseases, sodicity, organic-matter decline, drought, surface mining, soil crusting, socioeconomic factors, soil acidity, and others. The sixth chapter, `Role of essential nutrients on plant diseases,' provides an overview of an important, but often conclusion-challenged topic. Summary statements and opinions are given. The next chapter appeared in the first edition as the penultimate chapter, but it was moved for this edition [as recommended by an earlier reviewer (Soil Science 154:509)]. The chapter, `Simulation of crop growth and management,' hasn't changed much from the first edition. There are no changes to the section on N-transformation models with the same references as the six-year-old earlier edition. Overall, there are about 20 new references in this chapter. The rest of the book is devoted to the crops wheat, barley, rice, corn, sorghum, soybean, common bean, cowpea, peanut, sugarcane, cassava, potato, cotton, and forages. Issues addressed for each crop include soil and climate requirements, growth and development, nutrient requirements, and yield components. Chapters are short and provide an easy introduction to the field crops. A cotton physiologist complained to me of a lack of recent references in the cotton chapter, especially regarding the importance of nodes above white flower in assessing cotton maturity.

A note to the authors: Improve or remove the index for the next edition. The index now is an alphabetized version of the table of contents. The index cited silicon under E for Essential nutrients and plant disease and not under Silicon, Disease or Nutrients. The index fails.

I expect more from books that are expensive. This book has no photographs or color and has less material than some economical soils or crops textbooks. Scientists and students will like it as a reference, but its high cost makes it more likely for libraries than for offices. Even for purchase by libraries, it may be a problem since at LSU, for example, fewer books and journals are bought because of their high cost. Academic books are tied to the number of books sold and the lesser-issued books--like this one--are more expensive. An odd result where the more-expensive books may be less-desirable versions of less-expensive texts.

Paul F. Bell Department of Agronomy, LSU, LSU Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-2110 (pbell@agctr.lsu.edu)
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Author:Bell, Paul F.
Publication:Crop Science
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1998
Words:798
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