, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 346-353

Nitrogen mineralization and availability of mixed leguminous and non-leguminous cover crop residues in soil

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Abstract

Whereas non-leguminous cover crops such as cereal rye (Secale cereale) or annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorium) are capable of reducing nitrogen (N) leaching during wet seasons, leguminous cover crops such as hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) improve soil N fertility for succeeding crops. With mixtures of grasses and legumes as cover crop, the goal of reducing N leaching while increasing soil N availability for crop production could be attainable. This study examined net N mineralization of soil treated with hairy vetch residues mixed with either cereal rye or annual ryegrass and the effect of these mixtures on growth and N uptake by cereal rye. Both cereal rye and annual ryegrass contained low total N, but high water-soluble carbon and carbohydrate, compared with hairy vetch. Decreasing the proportion of hairy vetch in the mixed residues decreased net N mineralization, rye plant growth and N uptake, but increased the crossover time (the time when the amount of net N mineralized in the residue-amended soil equalled that of the non-amended control) required for net N mineralization to occur. When the hairy vetch content was decreased to 40% or lower, net N immobilization in the first week of incubation increased markedly. Residue N was significantly correlated with rye biomass (r=0.81, P<0.01) and N uptake (r=0.83, P<0.001), although the correlation was much higher between residue N and the potential initial N mineralization rate for rye biomass (r=0.93, P<0.001) and N uptake (r=0.99, P<0.001). Judging from the effects of the mixed residues on rye N Concentration and N uptake, the proportion of rye or annual ryegrass when mixed with residues of hairy vetch should not exceed 60% if the residues are to increase N availability. Further study is needed to examine the influence of various mixtures of hairy vetch and rye or annual ryegrass on N leaching in soil.

Received: 10 March 1997