LEGUMINOUS COVER CROPS FOR BANANA PLANTATIONS IN SEMI-ARID REGIONS

ABSTRACT High temperatures and low rainfall characterize the Brazilian semiarid regions. This regional climate demands the adoption of practices that increase the efficiency and sustainability of local farming. This study aimed to assess the ability of two perennial herbaceous leguminous species, calopo and tropical kudzu, to provide permanent soil cover in banana plantations in Jequitinhonha Valley, northeast Minas Gerais state, Brazil. To this end, we evaluated the differences of calopo and tropical kudzu in soil cover capacity and the amount of senescent phytomass deposited on the soil surface, nutrient content in senescent phytomass, as well as their effects on temperature and soil moisture, compared with bare soil in two experimental sites. The results showed that, compared with tropical kudzu, calopo had a higher soil cover capacity and was more effective at increasing organic material and nutrients in the soil owing to the relatively higher amount of senescent phytomass deposited on the soil surface. However, both calopo and tropical kudzu reduced soil temperature and increase soil moisture compared with bare soil. Overall, we concluded that these species can deposit high levels of senescence in the soil, providing several benefits to the cultivation system of banana plants in the semiarid regions.