Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 177–194 | Cite as

How winter cover crops and tillage intensities affect nitrogen availability in eggplant

  • Emanuele Radicetti
  • Enio Campiglia
  • Alvaro Marucci
  • Roberto Mancinelli
Original Article


This study evaluates the fate of nitrogen (N) content in winter cover crops under different tillage intensities. Field trials were conducted over a 2-year period in a Mediterranean environment adopting a cover crop–eggplant sequence. The treatments were: three cover crops (hairy vetch, oat and oilseed rape); three tillage intensities (residue left on soil surface, shallow green manure and deep green manure). The measurements included: cover crop and eggplant characteristics, N mineralization from cover crops, soil inorganic N and soil CO2 emission. At cover crop termination, N accumulated in the cover crops was 207, 77 and 77 kg N ha−1 in hairy vetch, oat and oilseed rape, respectively. Tillage intensity affected biomass decomposition and N mineralization from cover crop residues which were slower when residues were left on soil surface (54 and 71%, respectively) than when incorporated into the soil (66 and 79%, respectively). Hairy vetch showed a greater ability to supply N to eggplant (151 kg N ha−1), due to the fast decay of its residues, consequently, the N balance index was always high after hairy vetch throughout eggplant cultivation. N mineralized by cover crops was positively correlated with total soil CO2 emission and soil inorganic N. Placing cover crop residues on soil surface enhances synchronization between N mineralized and eggplant N demand in hairy vetch, while in oat it appears to mitigate the shortage of soil inorganic N for the following vegetable. These findings may also be extended to other summer vegetables which have similar requirements to the eggplant.


Hairy vetch Oat Oilseed rape Biomass decomposition Soil inorganic nitrogen Crop nitrogen uptake 







Cover crop


Residue left on soil surface


Shallow green manure


Deep green manure


Days after cover crop termination


Nitrogen balance index



This research was funded by the University of Tuscia. The authors wish to thank Claudio Stefanoni and Fulvia Gatti for their technical assistance and for participating in data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emanuele Radicetti
    • 1
  • Enio Campiglia
    • 1
  • Alvaro Marucci
    • 1
  • Roberto Mancinelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Forestry SciencesUniversity of TusciaViterboItaly

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