, Volume 266, Issue 1-2, pp 273-287

Biomass production, symbiotic nitrogen fixation and inorganic N use in dual and tri-component annual intercrops

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Abstract

The interspecific complementary and competitive interactions between pea (Pisum sativum L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.), grown as dual and tri-component intercrops were assessed in a field study in Denmark. Total biomass production and N use at two levels of N fertilisation (0.5 and 4.0 g N/m2), were measured at five harvests throughout a growing season. All intercrops displayed land equivalent ratio values close to or exceeding unity, indicating complementary use of growth resources. Whereas both rape and barley responded positively to increased N fertilisation, irrespective of whether they were grown as sole- or intercrops, pea was strongly suppressed when grown in intercrop. Of the three crops barley was the strongest competitor for both soil and fertiliser N, rape intermediate and pea the weakest. Faster initial growth of barley than pea and rape gave barley an initial competitive advantage, an advantage that in the two dual intercrops was strengthened by the addition of N. Apparently the competitive superiority of barley was less strong in the tri-component intercrop, indicating that the impact of the dominantmay, through improved growth of both rape and pea, have been diminished through indirect facilitation. Interspecific competition had a promoting effect on the percent of nitrogen derived from N2 fixation of pea, and most so at the low N fertilisation level. Results indicate that the benefits achieved from the association of a legume and nonlegume, in terms of N2 fixed were greatest when pea was grown in association with rape as opposed to barley which could indicate that the benefits achieved from the association of a legume and nonlegume are partly lost if the nonlegume is too strong a competitor.