Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 87–97 | Cite as

Nutrient cycling in a cropping system with potato, spring wheat, sugar beet, oats and nitrogen catch crops. I. Input and offtake of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium

  • J. Vos
  • P.E.L. van der Putten


Nutrient balances, defined as the difference between input with manures, fertilizers and atmospheric deposition and offtake of nutrients with harvested products in arable cropping systems, need to be positive to compensate for unavoidable losses to the environment, but should be kept at the lowest possible level to minimize emissions or unnecessary accumulation of nutrients in the soil. Data from five consecutive years are reported from a long-term nutrient monitoring experiment with three replicates, managed comparably to conventional farming practice. There were four nutrient treatments (T1–T4). Treatment T1 received chemical fertilizer only. T2 received processed organic manure, supplying 50 per cent of the crop N-requirement, supplemented by chemical fertilizers. In treatments T1 and T2 the soil was bare during winter. In T3 and T4 the crops were fertilized as in T1 and T2, respectively, but nitrogen catch crops were grown in autumn and winter. Averaged over five years, the N-balances were 46 kg N ha-1 y-1 in T1 and T2 and 25 kg ha-1 y-1 in T3 and T4 (atmospheric deposition of 44 kg N ha-1y-1 included). Averaged over all treatments and years, the P-balance was 7 kg ha-1 y-1 and the K-balance -33 kg ha-1 y-1. The initially high soil fertility indices for both P and K declined over the experimental period. Catch crops and organic manure did not affect crop yields or nutrient balances, except that their combination in T4 resulted in 1.5 ton ha-1 extra dry matter yield of sugar beet roots. Between spring and harvest, potato and sugar beet showed positive N balances and the cereals negative N-balances. Sugar beet was the only crop with a positive K-balance. NPK concentrations in plant products were not systematically affected by treatments but varied considerably between seasons. At harvest, on average 63, 71, 75 and 112 kg N ha-1 (0–90 cm) were found after sugar beet, spring wheat, oats and potato, respectively. In November catch crops accumulated on average 39 kg N ha-1 after cereals and 33 and 5 kg ha-1 after potato and sugar beet, respectively. In March catch crops after the cereals contained 4 kg N ha-1 less than in autumn, but after potato and sugar beet N-accumulation in spring had increased to 49 and 29 ha N ha-1, respectively. In spring soil mineral N (0–90 cm) varied across years from 31 to 63 kg ha-1. The results indicate that compliance with a maximum excess of input over offtake, as imposed by future legislation, is feasible for N for cropping systems comparable to the system examined, but that the standard for P will probably turn out to be a tight one.

catch crop crop rotation manure mineralization mineral nitrogen nitrogen balance 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agronomy GroupWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Agronomy GroupWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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