2010 Volume 44 Issue 4 Pages 343-355
In this paper, we review the soil fertility characteristics and the nature of material in the West African lowlands in comparison with paddy soils in tropical Asia to examine their potential for rice cultivation. Soil samples collected from major lowland ecosystems, i.e., inland valleys (185 locations) and flood plains (62 locations), in 13 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo) generally show low values of pH, total C and N, available (Bary-2) P, exchangeable Ca and Mg, effective cation exchange capacity (ECEC), and clay content. These properties of the 87 topsoil samples selected from 247 collected samples are well associated with mineralogical composition. The clay and primary minerals predominantly consist of kaolinite and quartz, respectively, which suggests that the lowland soils in the region have low nutrient-holding capacity and a limited potential for inherent nutrient supply. In general, soil pH, available P, exchangeable bases (Ca, Mg, K, and Na), and ECEC decrease while total C, total N and exchange acidity (Al and H) increase with increasing rainfall. This tendency is mostly explained by the enhanced biomass production and soil weathering sequence governed by the climate. In terms of rice production, the lowland soils in West Africa have lower values of general fertility parameters and poorer mineralogical characteristics compared to paddy soils in tropical Asia, which includes Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In addition, deficit levels of S and Zn for rice production are widely observed in the lowland soils in West Africa. These findings suggest that soil fertility characteristics show substantially less potential for rice production in West Africa than in tropical Asia.