Plant and Soil

, Volume 412, Issue 1–2, pp 235–251 | Cite as

Improving N management through intercropping alleviates the inhibitory effect of mineral N on nodulation in pea

  • Falong Hu
  • Cai Zhao
  • Fuxue Feng
  • Qiang ChaiEmail author
  • Yanping Mu
  • Yan Zhang
Regular Article


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.


Intercropping 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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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Falong Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cai Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fuxue Feng
    • 1
    • 3
  • Qiang Chai
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yanping Mu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yan Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Gansu Provincial Key Laboratory of Arid Land Crop ScienceLanzhouChina
  2. 2.College of AgronomyGansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.College of EngineeringGansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina

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