Letusa Momesso

Letusa Momesso

PhD Student
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Visiting Address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands


My research is in Plant Nutrition, Soil Science, Agronomy and Microbiology. My current project is 'Forage-maize system supplied with nitrogen in tropical soil.'


Letusa Momesso is a PhD student of Department of the Microbial Ecology Department at NIOO KNAW and collaborates on various projects with the Sao Paulo State University (FCA/UNESP, Brazil).

Research groups



Key publications

  • Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment

    Forage Grasses Steer Soil Nitrogen Processes, Microbial Populations, and Microbiome Composition in A Long-term Tropical Agricult

    Momesso L., Crusciol C. A. C., Leite M. F. A., Bossolani J. W., Kuramae E. E.
    Forage grasses used in cropping no-till systems in tropical regions alter soil chemical properties, but their long-term impact on soil microbial processes of the nitrogen (N) cycle and microbial community abundance, composition and structure are unknown. Here, microbial functions related to nitrogen fixation, nitrification and denitrification as well as bacterial, archaeal and fungal populations were evaluated in a long-term field experiment in which tropical forage grasses palisade grass (Urochloa brizantha (Hochst. Ex A. Rich.) R.D. Webster) and ruzigrass (U. ruziziensis (R. Germ. and C.M. Evrard) Crins) were cultivated with or without N fertilization. Uncultivated soil was used as a control. Forage grasses, especially palisade grass, increased soil bacterial and fungal abundances, whereas the archaeal population was highest in uncultivated soil. In soils cultivated with forage grasses, N fertilization favored N-cycle-related genes; however, cultivation of palisade grass increased the abundances of amoA bacteria (AOB) and amoA archaea (AOA) genes associated with soil nitrification and decreased the abundances of genes nirS, nirK and nosZ genes related to denitrification, compared to ruzigrass and control, regardless of N input. In addition, abundances of total bacteria and total fungi were associated with the N cycle and plant biomass in soils cultivated with forage grasses. Forage cultivation clearly benefitted the soil nutrient environment (S-SO42-, Mg2+, total-C and -N, N-NO3- and N-NH4+) and microbiome (bacteria and fungi) compared with uncultivated soil. In soil cultivated with palisade grass, the microbial community composition was unresponsive to N addition. The high N uptake by palisade grass supports the competitive advantage of this plant species over microorganisms for N sources. Our results suggest that palisade grass has advantages over ruzigrass for use in agriculture systems, regardless of N input.
  • Geoderma

    Optimizing cover crop and fertilizer timing for high maize yield and nitrogen cycle control

    Momesso L., Crusciol C. A. C., Cantarella H., Tanaka K. S., Kowalchuk G. A., Kuramae E. E.
    Residues of cover crop grasses release nitrogen (N) to subsequent crops, which can contribute to sustainable agricultural management and prevent increases in N-loss-related microorganisms. Moreover, applying N fertilizer to cover crops can enhance the N-use efficiency and yields of subsequent cash crops and tighten the N cycle in the soil. However, the long-term effects of N fertilization of cover crops on soil microbiota and the N cycle in tropical grass-crop no-till systems are unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term effects of the timing of N fertilization of cover crops or maize on crop yields, total microbial abundances and N-cycle gene abundances at the time of maize harvest. We carried out a field experiment with two cover crops (palisade grass (Urochloa brizantha) and ruzigrass (U. ruziziensis) fertilized with 120 kg N ha−1 (ammonium sulfate) at one of three times: (i) broadcast over the green cover crops at 35 days before maize seeding (35 DBS), (ii) broadcast over the cover crop straw residues at 1 day before maize seeding (1 DBS), and (iii) as side-dressing at the maize V4 growth stage according to the conventional method (band-applied 0.05 m from the maize row). A control treatment without N application was also carried out for both cover crop species. Except for the control, 40 kg N ha−1 as ammonium sulfate was subsurface band-applied in all treatments 0.05–0.10 m from the maize row at maize seeding, corresponding to 160 kg N ha−1. The total bacterial, archaeal and fungal abundances and abundances of microbial genes encoding enzymes of the N cycle in the soil were quantified by real-time PCR at the maize harvest stage. Overall, maize yield increased significantly in all N fertilizer applications (average 13 Mg ha−1) compared with the control (6 Mg ha−1) over three growing seasons, with maize following palisade grass having the highest yield. The abundances of archaea and fungi in soil were highest under palisade grass that received N at 35 DBS, with values of 4.6 × 106 and 1.7 × 107 gene copies/g of dry soil, respectively. Both cover crop straw production and N release to the soil were positively correlated with the total microbe densities. When ruzigrass was the cover crop, low N enhanced nifH abundance. Archaeal amoA abundance was positively correlated with cover crop biomass and N release regardless of the N treatment and was highest under palisade grass. Bacterial amoA, nirK, and nirS abundances were highest in soil under ruzigrass and were not linked to cover crop biomass mineralization. We conclude that N fertilizer should be applied using the currently recommended method (40 and 120 kg N ha−1 at seeding and side-dressed in maize, respectively) following palisade grass to achieve high maize yield while controlling the level of N loss from tropical soil via nitrification and denitrification.
  • Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst

    Early nitrogen supply as an alternative management for a cover crop-maize sequence under a no-till system

    Momesso L., Crusciol C. A. C., Soratto R. P., Nascimento C. A. C., Rosolem C. A., Moretti L. G., Kuramae E. E., Cantarella H.
    Optimizing agronomic efficiency (AE) of nitrogen (N) fertilizer use by crops and enhancing crop yields are challenges for tropical no-tillage systems since maintaining crop residues on the soil surface alters the nutrient supply to the system. Cover crops receiving N fertilizer can provide superior biomass, N cycling to the soil and plant residue mineralization. The aims of this study were to (i) investigate N application on forage cover crops or cover crop residues as a substitute for N sidedressing (conventional method) for maize and (ii) investigate the supply of mineral N in the soil and the rates of biomass decomposition and N release. The treatments comprised two species, i.e., palisade grass [Urochloa brizantha (Hochst. Ex A. Rich.) R.D. Webster] and ruzigrass [Urochloa ruziziensis (R. Germ. and C.M. Evrard) Crins], and four N applications: (i) control (no N application), (ii) on live cover crops 35 days before maize seeding (35 DBS), (iii) on cover crop residues 1 DBS, and (iv) conventional method (N sidedressing of maize). The maximum rates of biomass decomposition and N release were in palisade grass. The biomass of palisade grass and ruzigrass were 81 and 47% higher in N application at 35 DBS compared with control in ruzigrass (7 Mg ha−1), and N release followed the pattern observed of biomass in palisade and ruzigrass receiving N 35 DBS (249 and 189 kg N ha−1). Mineral N in the soil increased with N application regardless of cover crop species. Maize grain yields and AE were not affected when N was applied on palisade grass 35 DBS or 1 DBS (average 13 Mg ha−1 and 54 kg N kg−1 maize grain yield) compared to conventional method. However, N applied on ruzigrass 35 DBS decreased maize grain yields. Overall, N fertilizer can be applied on palisade grass 35 DBS or its residues 1 DBS as a substitute for conventional sidedressing application for maize.
  • Field Crops Research

    Upland rice intercropped with forage grasses in an integrated crop-livestock system: Optimizing nitrogen management and food pro

    Crusciol C. A. C., Momesso L., Portugal J. R., Costa, C. H. M.,... Costa C., Franzluebbers A. J., Cantarella H.
    Intercropping upland rice with forage grasses is a potential strategy for enhancing the sustainability of agriculture in the tropical region by increasing food production, land use per unit area, nitrogen (N) cycling, and profitability. However, little is known about the appropriate N management and N use efficiency of upland rice in these complex systems. Thus, our aim was to verify the feasibility of intercropping upland rice with tropical forage grasses combined with different N management applications at sowing and sidedressing. A field experiment was carried out in three growing seasons with three intercropping systems (monocropped upland rice, upland rice intercropped with palisade grass, and upland rice intercropped with guinea grass) combined with six N applications to upland rice [0−0 (control), 100−0, 80−20, 50−50, 20−80, and 0−100 kg N ha−1 at sowing-sidedressing]. Dry matter (DM) and accumulated N were measured in upland rice and forage grasses. In addition, components of rice yield production, industrial yield, production cost, land equivalent ratio, relative N yield, relative crowding coefficient, aggressivity of upland rice with forage grasses, forage crude protein (CP) concentration, estimated animal stocking rate, and estimated meat production were determined. Despite competition between rice and forage grasses, intercropping systems had superior benefits in terms of production and land use per unit area, N cycling, and profitability compared with monoculture. Forage DM production, CP, estimated animal stocking rate, and estimated meat production increased when N fertilizer was applied at sidedressing to rice (20−80, 50−50 and 0−100 kg N ha−1). Rice intercropped with guinea grass produced a greater amount of biomass, indicating that this forage species may be more advantageous in tropical regions. Net profit, total aboveground biomass, total N content, land equivalent ratio, and relative N yield were greater in intercropping systems fertilized with N.

Projects & collaborations


  • Long-term Ca-based amendments impact on microbiome and N processes in the rhizosphere and soil in tropical no-till intercropping system

    Project 2019–Present
    Unsustainable agricultural management practices such as non-conservationist tillage and overuse of fertilizers result in soil acidity and, in turn, soil degradation due to reduced carbon (C) concentrations and nutrient availability and increased aluminum toxicity. Application of lime (L) and phosphogypsum (PG) can overcome these constraints and improve soil quality, but the long-term effects of these amendments on both abiotic and biotic soil properties are not known, particularly when applied in combination. Here, we evaluate the effects of L (acidity corrective), PG (soil conditioner), and their combination (LPG) on soil organic matter (SOM) transformations, soil chemical and physical properties, microbiome assembly, N uptake by intercropped plants, maize yield, archaeal and bacterial abundances, and N cycle genes in the maize and ruzigrass rhizospheres in a long-term field experiment in tropical soil with a no-till maize and forage ruzigrass intercropping system. 
  • Forage grasses cover crops of rice and maize to steer nitrogen processes and microbiome to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions in long-term tropical agriculture system

    Project 2018–Present
    The aim of this research is to understand how cover crop species combined with different times of N application affect the cover crop straw, nutrition and productivity of cash crop, soil chemical properties and soil microbial composition and function in a holistic approach of the entire agricultural system under tropical no-till system. Focus is on microbiome that immediately respond to the N application disturbances and in a long period to the plant cultivation, N inputs and soil properties changes. We use 3-year field experiment with palisade grass and ruzigrass cover crops and subsequent maize cash crop combined with different N management strategies to quantify the microbial genes of the N cycle and the bacterial and fungal communities’ structure and composition in the agricultural system.