This study was aimed at investigating the field capacity of three sacred forest soils of the West Region of Cameroon and their effect on the germination potential and early plant growth characteristics of fresh and dried seeds of Aframomum melegueta. Sample soils were collected from Bamendjo (BO), Bamendjinda (BA), and Mbing Mekoup (MB) sacred forest areas. Each area was divided into three location sites 1, 2 and 3 and each of the sites was made up of 3 collection points (P1, P2, and P3). The field capacity (FC) of each site was determined before the planting of the seeds. For each collection site, the soil of a collection point was randomly chosen to form two groups with five replicates each. In each pot, 10 fresh seeds and 10 dried seeds were planted respectively and monitored for germination. Measurements for seedling growth were spread over 14 weeks. Results showed that the field capacity (FC) of BO (71.18%) and of BA (68.64%) were significantly different from those of MB (51.66%). The germinating percentages of the seeds were very high in the soils of BO (76. 67%) and BA (61. 33%) as compared to those of MB (48%). The latent period of the seeds was longer in the soils of MB (12 days) and shorter in the soil of BO (7 days). The average height of the plants in the soils of BO (6. 75 cm) and BA (6. 05 cm) were greater than those of the plants in the soils of MB (4.61 cm). The number of leaves of the plants of BO (4), BA (4) and MB (4) were not significantly different. The leaf surface area was higher in BO (10.43 cm²) and BA (8, 30 cm²) as compared to that of MB (5. 37 cm²). This study has shown that the FC of the soils of the sacred forests of BO and BA positively affected the germination percentage and the latent period of the fresh seeds; the leaf surface area and the heights of young plants. Meanwhile, the germination rates of the fresh seeds and A. melegueta dried seeds were not affected by the FC of the soils.
Key words: Field capacity, Bamendjo, Bamendjinda, Mbing Mekoup, sacred forests, germination, growth, Aframomum melegueta.