Plant and Soil

, Volume 426, Issue 1–2, pp 241–251 | Cite as

Cropping regimes affect NO3 versus NH4+ uptake by Zea mays and Glycine max

  • Min Liu
  • Na Qiao
  • Qian Zhang
  • Xingliang Xu
Regular Article


Background and aims

Intercropping cereals with legumes has been practiced for centuries. The benefits have been investigated by measuring biological N fixation and production, but have seldom been evaluated based on plant N acquisition strategies.


Zea mays and Glycine max were planted under three cropping regimes, i.e., monocropping or intercropping the two species in the same hole (sowing at the same point) or separated at a certain distance. After 50 days, an in situ 15N-labeling experiment was carried out to assess N uptake preference (NO3 or NH4+).


Intercropping in the same hole increased plant density and total biomass. Both species showed a strong preference for NO3 over NH4+. Intercropping in the same hole increased and decreased NO3 uptake by Z. mays and G. max, respectively. Z. mays significantly increased NH4+ uptake when intercropped in the same hole or at a certain distance.


Z. mays and G. max showed strong preference for NO3 over NH4+ irrespective of cropping regime. Intercropping did not influence N preference but altered uptake rates of both N forms. Thus, intercropping in the same hole is a useful practice in agricultural systems because it can increase total biomass and N uptake by Z. mays.


Inorganic N uptake Intercropping Maize Monocropping Soybean 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31470560 and 41601318) and Youth Innovation Research Team Project (LENOM2016Q0004).

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3625_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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