Field experiments were carried out on a temperate soil to determine the decline rate, the stabilization in soil organic matter and the plant uptake of N from 15N-labelled crop residues. The fate of N from field pea (Pisum sativum L.) and spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) residues was followed in unplanted and planted plots and related to their chemical composition. In the top 10 cm of unplanted plots, inorganic N was immobilized after barley residue incorporation, whereas the inorganic N pool was increased during the initial 30 days after incorporation (DAI) of pea residues. Initial net mineralization of N was highly correlated to the concentrations of soluble C and N and the lignin: N ratio of residues. The contribution of residue-derived N to the inorganic N pool was at its maximum 30 DAI (10–55%) and declined to on average 5% after 3 years of decomposition.
Residual organic labelled N in the top 10 cm soil declined rapidly during the initial 86 DAI for all residue types. Leaching of soluble organic materials may have contributed to this decline. At 216 DAI 72, 59 and 45% of the barley, mature pea and green pea residue N, respectively, were present in organic N-forms in the topsoil. During the 1–3 year period, residual organic labelled N from different residues declined at similar rates, mean decay constant: 0.18 yr-1. After 3 years, 45% of the barley and on average 32% of the pea residue N were present as soil organic N. The proportion of residue N remaining in the soil after 3 years of decomposition was most strongly correlated with the total and soluble N concentrations in the residue. The ratio (% inorganic N derived from residues): (% organic N derived from residues) was used as a measure of the rate residue N stabilization. From initial values of 3–7 the ratios declined to on average 1.9 and 1.6 after 2 and 3 yrs, respectively, indicating that a major part of the residue N was stabilized after 2 years of decomposition. Even though the largest proportion of residue N stabilized after 3 years was found for barley, the largest amount of residue N stabilized was found with incorporation of pea residues, since much more N was incorporated with these residues.
In planted plots and after one year of decomposition, 7% of the pea and 5% of the barley residue N were recovered in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) shoots. After 2 years the cumulative recovery of residue N in ryegrass shoots and roots was 14% for pea and 15% for barley residue N. The total uptake of non-labelled soil N after 2 years of growth was similar in the two residue treatments, but the amount of soil N taken up in each growth period varied between the treatments, apparently because the soil N immobilized during initial decomposition of residues was remineralized later in the barley than in the pea residue treatment. Balances were established for the amounts of barley and mature pea residue N remaining in the 0–10 cm soil layer and taken up in ryegrass after 2 years of decomposition. About 24% of the barley and 35% of the pea residue N were unaccounted for. Since these apparent losses are comparable to almost twice the amounts of pea and barley residue N taken up by the perennial ryegrass crop, there seems to be a potential for improved crop residue management in order to conserve nutrients in the soil-plant system.
crop residuesHordeum vulgare L.15N, N-cyclingPisum sativum L.