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Freezing–thawing effects on phosphorus leaching from catch crops

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It is suggested that catch crops be grown to reduce phosphorus (P) losses. However, after exposure to freezing–thawing cycles (FTCs), catch crop material can become a source of P losses to waters in moderately cold climates. This study screened potential P leaching from intact plant material of eight catch crop species: chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), red clover (Trifolium pratense L.), phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia L.), white mustard (Sinapis alba L.), oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus L. oleiformis) and white radish (R. longipinnatus). The catch crops were grown in six field experiments on clay soils, where soil lysimeters (0.25 m deep) with intact crops were extracted in autumn and used for leaching experiments before and after seven FTCs in the laboratory. The eight catch crops did not reduce P leaching before FTCs. After FTCs, leachate total-P concentrations from ryegrass, oilseed radish and red clover lysimeters were significantly (p = 0.0022) higher than those from the other species and the control without a catch crop. FTCs significantly (p = 0.0064) altered total-P concentration and the proportions of different forms of P. There was a significant increase in total-P concentration in leachate from ryegrass (p = 0.0008) and oilseed radish (p = 0.02). Thus the potential risk of P leaching from ryegrass and oilseed radish material after FTCs must be considered, since they are commonly grown as nitrogen catch crops in the Nordic countries. Moreover, the roots of the tested catch crops contained 7–86 % total-P, which is important when evaluating P leaching risks.

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This study was funded by the Swedish Farmers Foundation for Agricultural Research (SLF), to which we express our sincere thanks.

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Correspondence to Jian Liu.

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Liu, J., Ulén, B., Bergkvist, G. et al. Freezing–thawing effects on phosphorus leaching from catch crops. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 99, 17–30 (2014).

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