, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 289-300

The comparison of nitrogen use and leaching in sole cropped versus intercropped pea and barley

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The effect of sole and intercropping of field pea (Pisumsativum L.) and spring barley (Hordeum vulgareL.) and of crop residue management on crop yield,NO3 leaching and N balance in the cropping systemwas tested in a 2-year lysimeter experiment on a temperate sandy loam soil. Thecrop rotation was pea and barley sole and intercrops followed by winter-rye anda fallow period. The Land Equivalent Ratio (LER), which is defined as therelative land area under sole crops that is required to produce the yieldsachieved in intercropping, was used to compare intercropping performancerelative to sole cropping. Crops received no fertilizer in the experimentalperiod. Natural 15N abundance techniques were used to determine peaN2 fixation. The pea–barley intercrop yielded 4.0 Mg grainha−1, which was about 0.5 Mg lowerthan theyields of sole cropped pea but about 1.5 Mg greater than harvestedin sole cropped barley. Calculation of the LER showed thatplant growth resources were used from 17 to 31% more efficiently by theintercrop than by the sole crops. Pea increased the N derived fromN2fixation from 70% when sole cropped to 99% of the total aboveground Naccumulation when intercropped. However, based upon aboveground N accumulationthe pea–barley intercrop yielded about 85 kg Nha−1, which was about 65 kg lower thansolecropped pea but about three times greater than harvested in sole croppedbarley.Despite different preceding crops and removal or incorporation of straw, therewas no significant difference between the subsequent non-fertilized winter-ryegrain yields averaging 2.8 Mg ha−1, indicating anequalization of the quality of incorporated residue by theNO3 leaching pattern.NO3 leaching throughout the experimental periodwas61 to 76 kg N ha−1. Leaching dynamics indicateddifferences in the temporal N mineralization comparing lysimeters previouslycropped with pea or with barley. The major part of this N was leached duringautumn and winter. Leaching tended to be smaller in the lysimeters originallycropped with the pea–barley intercrops, although not significantly differentfromthe sole cropped pea and barley lysimeters. Soil N balances indicated depletionof N in the soil–plant system during the experimental period, independent ofcropping system and residue management. N complementarity in the croppingsystemand the synchrony between residual N availability and crop N uptake isdiscussed.