Improving N management through intercropping alleviates the inhibitory effect of mineral N on nodulation in pea
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Background and aims
Symbiotic N2 fixation is essential in the development of sustainable agriculture, but the nodulation of legumes is usually inhibited by N fertilization. Here, the intercropping of maize and pea in strips under various N managements was used as a means to alleviate the inhibitory effect of mineral N on pea nodulation and N2 fixation and to improve system performance.
N natural abundance (δ 15N) analysis was employed to quantify N2 fixation in the 3 years (2012 to 2014) of field experiment in Hexi Corridor of Northwestern China. Four N management systems with N rate of 0 kg N ha−1 (the control), 90 + 45 kg N ha−1 (base N plus topdressing N), 90 + 90 kg N ha−1, and 90 + 135 kg N ha−1 were implemented in the maize/pea strip intercropping to form different ratios of base N to topdressing N.
Intercropped pea improved nodule biomass per plant by 99 %, increased nitrogen derived from the atmosphere (Ndfa) by 35 %, and promoted aboveground plant tissue N accumulation by 35 % as compared with sole pea, averaged across the four N treatments. Compared to the highest N fertilizer treatment, a reduction of topdressing to 45 kg N ha−1 increased the nodule biomass of intercropped pea by 116 %, Ndfa by 35 %, and grain yield by 6 %.
Adaptation of suitable N management in cereal/legume intercropping systems will allow an effective conversion of atmospheric N2 into crop available N and thus maximizing the system productivity.
KeywordsIntercropping Nodulation N2 fixation Soil mineral N Inhibitory effect
We are grateful to the research grants provided by National Key Technology R&D Program (granted number 2012BAD14B10), the National Natural Science Fund (granted number 31160265), the Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (granted number 201103001), and the Excellent Youth Foundation of Gansu Scientific Committee (1111RJDA006).
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