Effect of cropping systems on nitrogen mineralization in soils
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Understanding the effect of cropping systems on N mineralization in soils is crucial for a better assessment of N fertilizer requirements of crops in order to minimize nitrate contamination of surface and groundwater resources. The effects of crop rotations and N fertilization on N mineralization were studied in soils from two long-term field experiments at the Northeast Research Center and the Clarion-Webster Research Center in Iowa that were initiated in 1979 and 1954, respectively. Surface soil samples were taken in 1996 from plots of corn (Zea mays L.), soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.), oats (Avena sativa L.), or meadow (alfalfa) (Medicago sativa L.) that had received 0 or 180 kg N ha–1 before corn and an annual application of 20 kg P and 56 kg K ha–1. N mineralization was studied in leaching columns under aerobic conditions at 30 °C for 24 weeks. The results showed that N mineralization was affected by cover crop at the time of sampling. Continuous soybean decreased, whereas inclusion of meadow increased, the amount of cumulative N mineralized. The mineralizable N pool (No) varied considerably among the soil samples studied, ranging from 137 mg N kg–1 soil under continuous soybean to >500 mg N kg–1 soil under meadow-based rotations, sampled in meadow. The results suggest that the No and/or organic N in soils under meadow-based cropping systems contained a higher proportion of active N fractions.
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