Impact of legume 'break' crops on the residual amount and distribution of soil mineral nitrogen

J Evans, G Scott, Deirdre Lemerle, A Kaiser, Beverley Orchard, Gordon Murray, Eric Armstrong

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    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Important factors in the successful uptake of grain legumes by cereal growers have been their capacity to increase soil N and control cereal disease, as these have underpinned high yields in following wheat crops. However, alternative 1-year legume crops are required to introduce additional biodiversity and management flexibility for cereal growers. The effects on soil mineral N and potential contribution to soil total N of other legume enterprises were studied. These included vetch (Vicia bengalhensis) or clovers (mix of Trifolium alexandrinum, T. versiculosum, T. resupinatum) managed for green manure; pea (Pisum sativum), vetch, or clovers managed for silage; and clovers managed for hay. These were compared with pea and lupin (Lupinus angustifolius) managed for grain production. Wheat was also included as a control. The legumes were grown in acidic Red Kandasol soil at Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales, in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Mineral N was measured in the autumn or winter of seasons 1997 and 1998 respectively. Amounts of stubble residue N were measured in all seasons. The green manure crops, particularly vetch, produced more mineral N than both grain legumes. The forage conservation crops (silage or hay) produced similar amounts of mineral N to grain pea and more than grain lupin. For the grain and green manure legume crops, variation in amounts of mineral N was explained by the total N content of legume stubble residue, but for the forage conservation crops, more mineral N was measured than was predictable from stubble N. The amounts of mineral N at different soil depths differed between legume treatments and experiments (sites and years). Based only on above-ground plant N, the green manure crops contributed more to increasing total soil N than grain legumes; in turn, the grain legumes contributed more than the forage conservation crops.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)763-776
    Number of pages14
    JournalCrop and Pasture Science
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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