Effects of black locust on productivity and nitrogen nutrition of intercropped barley
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Effects of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) on productivity and N nutrition of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) were evaluated under various management regimes (2 soil types, 3 levels of N fertilizer, and 3 cropping systems — barley alone, and barley intercropped with trees pruned or unpruned).
Intercropping did not affect productivity and N nutrition of barley in 1988 when trees were small. However, there was a significant yield decline in 1989 as the trees grew bigger. On average, productivity of the sole crop was 8% higher in both soil types. Pruning and mulching moderated the yield reduction compared with the unpruned treatment. Competition for soil moisture was considered a major constraint. Nonetheless, the overall productivity (barley+black locust) from the intercropped treatments was 53% higher than sole cropping.
In 1989 and 1990, intercropped barley had significantly higher grain and straw N concentrations (%). In 1989, for example, grain N content was 11% higher than in the sole crop. Removal of trees in 1990 resulted in significant increase in productivity and N content of subsequent barley crop relative to continuous sole cropping. From N nutrition viewpoint, barley from previously intercropped treatments showed superior quality and it had, on average, 23% higher grain N content than the sole crop. This was attributed to N2-fixation and N return by black locust. It was estimated that black locust contributed about 36 kg N ha−1 to the system.
This study underscores the role black locust is potentially capable of playing in the development of sustainable and low-input agricultural systems in temperate regions. Nonetheless, the study also illustrates the importance of the below and above-ground interactions that occur in intercropped systems and the need for further research in this area.
Key wordsblack locust barley intercropping N2-fixation mulch crop yield N content
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