Towards Sustainable, Self-Supporting Agriculture: Biological Nitrogen Factories as a Key for Future Cropping Systems
The LOME concept of self-sufficient agricultural systems encompasses legumes supplying nitrogen and proteins, oil-seed crops producing fuel, and methanization of biomass producing renewable energy. The benefits of introducing a legume into a crop rotation have been widely discussed but there has been no comparison of long-term yield trends and few long-term experiments on the interaction between biological and mineral sources of nitrogen (N).
During five 6-year cycles of a long-term experiment comparing cropping systems with and without lucerne over 2 years followed by four identical crops, the 2 years of lucerne produced 689 kgN as above-ground biomass and, also, had a big residual effect. The four subsequent crops after the lucerne exported a further 202 kgN and, in four rotations out of five, wheat grown in the first and third years after lucerne without mineral N fertilizer achieved more than 80 % of the maximum wheat yields under non-N limited conditions. There is a negative interaction on N uptake from different N sources. These results suggest that a self-sufficient cropping system based on biological N fixation can be a real alternative to conventional intensive systems.
KeywordsWinter Wheat Anaerobic Digestion Crop Residue Green Manure Residual Effect
This chapter is dedicated to Dr Louis Gachon (1926–1999), Director of INRA-Agricultural Research Station at Clermont-Ferrand and Chief of Agronomy of INRA-France who, in 1968, transformed the field experiment initiated by Dr D Collier in 1948 to this long-term experiment. Special thanks to INRA technical staff who contributed to the project by their enthusiastic assistance throughout the trial over 30 years.
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