Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 101–120 | Cite as

Can the Synchrony of Nitrogen Supply and Crop Demand be Improved in Legume and Fertilizer-based Agroecosystems? A Review

  • Timothy E. Crews
  • Mark B. Peoples
A Review


Asynchrony between nitrogen (N) supply and crop demand is the source of many environmental hazards associated with excess N in the biosphere. In this review, we explore some of the complexity of the synchrony issue in agroecosystems that obtain N via legume rotations or synthetic fertilizers. Studies that have simultaneously compared the fate of both sources of N suggest that in rainfed agricultures, crops recover more N from fertilizer, but a higher proportion of the legume N is retained in the soil and N losses tend not to differ greatly from either source. However, investigations from irrigated cropping systems indicate that legume N is generally less susceptible to loss processes than fertilizers. Such general conclusions need to be qualified by acknowledging that not all comparative studies have used ȁ8best management practices’ when applying the fertilizer or legume residues. When information-intensive management approaches are used, fertilizer-based systems can potentially out-perform the synchrony achieved by legume-based rotations. We suggest that the inclusion of perennials in cropping systems may hold the greatest promise for decreasing the risk of N losses in future farming systems.


Annual agriculture Asynchrony Fertilizers Leaching Legumes Nitrogen Nitrate Perennial Synchrony 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Prescott CollegePrescottUSA
  2. 2.CSIRO Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia

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