Plant and Soil

, Volume 238, Issue 1, pp 41-55

First online:

The influence of long-term tillage systems on symbiotic N2 fixation of pea (Pisum sativum L.) and red clover (Trifolium pratense L.)

  • Karin ReiterAffiliated withInstitute of Agronomy and Plant Breeding, University of Göttingen
  • , Knut SchmidtkeAffiliated withInstitute of Agronomy and Plant Breeding, University of Göttingen
  • , Rolf RauberAffiliated withInstitute of Agronomy and Plant Breeding, University of Göttingen

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Pea as a grain legume and red clover as a forage legume in the seeding year were cultivated in two long-term differentiated tillage systems on a loess soil in Germany. A continuous conventional tillage system (plow; CT) and a continuous minimum tillage system (rotary harrow; MT) were established in 1970. With pea and red clover dry matter accumulation and N parameters (N accumulation, Ndfa, N-harvest-index, N balance) were investigated in 1998 and 1999. Differences in the N2 fixation of pea due to the tillage system could clearly be shown whereas grain yields and total N accumulation were equal in both tillage systems and years. In both years a significantly (P < 0.05) higher Ndfa in the MT system was found at least in the final harvest (maturity of pea): 1998/1999, 0.42/0.54 in CT, 0.62/0.75 in MT. The differences in N2 fixation of pea may be explained by the delayed soil N supply in MT at the beginning of the vegetative period. Simplified N balances of pea were -18 and −25 kg N ha−1 in CT and −5 and +1 kg N ha−1 in MT for 1998 and 1999, respectively. Red clover showed no significant differences in the DM and N accumulation between both tillage systems but a year dependent effect caused by different stubble and root yields between the years was apparent. With red clover slightly, but also significantly (P < 0.05) increased Ndfa values were found in the MT system compared to the CT system with 0.55/0.62 in CT (1998/1999) and 0.64/0.71 in MT. However, the difference in Ndfa between the tillage systems (9 percentage points) was much smaller with red clover than with pea (20 and 21 percentage points in 1998 and 1999, respectively). Soil N uptake of red clover using the longer growing season reflected the more adjusted N supply in both long-term differentiated tillage systems, whereas pea in using only a short-term vegetative period reacted stronger to the lower N mineralization in the MT system in springtime.

conventional tillage long-term minimum tillage N2 fixation nitrogen balance Pisum sativum Trifolium pratense