Alley cropping has been considered a means of intensifying land use sustainably as an alternative to slash and burn agriculture in tropical regions. An experimental trial was used to evaluating the growth and productivity of corn under alley cropping to test the viability of this system as a sustainable land use practice in an amazonian Ultisol. The experimental layout was a completely randomized block design with four replications of six treatments: mulch with 13.4 and 8.9 t ha-1 of pigeon pea, and a control treatment without mulch of pigeon pea, with or without tillage. Sustainability of soil and crop were determined from changes on physical properties, such as total porosity, air capacity, available water capacity of the soil, net assimilation rate, crop growth rate, and leaf area index, as well as several productivity parameters, including average weight of ears, weight of 100 grains, and total dry matter. Both mulching and tillage increased the air capacity. Mulching of tilled areas protects the soil against the rainfall impact and prevented its recompaction. The reduced air capacity of the soil had a negative impact on the net assimilation rate, resulting in lower productivity in the no-mulch and no-till plots, mainly due to the reduction of grain weight.
air capacity; recompaction; pigeon pea