Plant and Soil

, Volume 98, Issue 2, pp 265–274 | Cite as

Species variation in the fixation and transfer of nitrogen from legumes to associated grasses

  • T. C. Ta
  • M. A. Faris


Three legume species (alfalfa, red clover, and birdsfoot trefoil) in combination with five grass species (timothy, bromegrass, red fescue, tall fescue, and orchardgrass) were used to study N transfer in mixtures, using the 15N dilution technique. The advantage of grass-legume mixtures was apparent. Total herbage and protein yields of grasses in mixtures were higher than those alone, especially at the later cuts. This benefit of mixed cropping is mainly due to N transfer from legumes to associated grasses. N2-fixation and N transfer by alfalfa rated highest, red clover intermediate, and birdsfoot trefoil lowest. The importance of each pathway of N transfer from legumes appeared to differ between species. Alfalfa and red clover excreted more N than trefoil, while the latter contributed more N from decomposition of dead nodule and root tissue. The greatest advantage from a grass-legume mixture, with respect to the utilization of N released from the legume, varied with early maturing tall fescue (Kentucky 31), orchardgrass (Juno), and bromegrass (Tempo), to intermediate timothy (Climax), and least with late maturing red fescue (Carlawn).

Key words

Alfalfa Birdsfoot trefoil Bromegrass Nitrogen fixation Nitrogen transfer Orchardgrass Red clover Red fescue Tall fescue Timothy 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. C. Ta
    • 1
  • M. A. Faris
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Research CentreAgriculture CanadaOttawaCanada

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