, Volume 73, Issue 2-3, pp 201-212

Intercropping of Wheat and Pea as Influenced by Nitrogen Fertilization

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Abstract

The effect of sole and intercropping of field pea (Pisum sativum L.) and spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) on crop yield, fertilizer and soil nitrogen (N) use was tested on a sandy loam soil at three levels of urea fertilizer N (0, 4 and 8 g N m−2) applied at sowing. The 15 N enrichment and natural abundance techniques were used to determine N accumulation in the crops from the soil, fertilizer and symbiotic N2 fixation. Intercrops of pea and wheat showed maximum productivity without the supply of N fertilizer. Intercropping increased total dry matter (DM) and N yield, grain DM and N yield, grain N concentration, the proportion of N derived from symbiotic N2 fixation, and soil N accumulation. With increasing fertilizer N supply, intercropped and sole cropped wheat responded with increased yield, grain N yield and soil N accumulation, whereas the opposite was the case for pea. Fertilizer N enhanced the competitive ability of intercropped wheat recovering up to 90% of the total intercrop fertilizer N acquisition and decreased the proportion of pea in the intercrop, but without influencing the total intercrop grain yield. As a consequence, Land Equivalent Ratios calculated on basis of total DM production decreased from a maximum of 1.34 to as low as 0.85 with increased fertilizer N supply. The study suggests that pea–wheat intercropping is a cropping strategy that use N sources efficiently due to its spatial self-regulating dynamics where pea improve its interspecific competitive ability in areas with lower soil N levels, and vice versa for wheat, paving way for future option to reduce N inputs and negative environmental impacts of agricultural crop production.