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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 86 No. 3, p. 543-549
    Received: Jan 24, 1993

    * Corresponding author(s):
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Water Use by Annual Green Manure Legumes in Dryland Cropping Systems

  1. V. O. Biederbeck  and
  2. O. T. Bouman
  1. Agriculture Canada Res. Stn., Box 1030, Swift Current, SK S9H 3X2 Canada



Data on plant water use and soil water depletion by green manure legumes are needed to develop sustainable cropping systems in a semiarid environment. The objectives of this study were to determine: (i) seasonal water use by legumes, (ii) their water use efficiency (WUE), and (iii) residual soil water contents after legume growth compared with summerfallow and continuous spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Black lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus), Tangier flatpea (Lathyrus tingitanus L.), chickling vetch (Lathyrus sativus L.), and feed pea (Pisum sativum L.), were seeded into wheat stubble with snow trap strips on an Orthic Brown Chernozem soil (Aridic Haploborolls) at Swift Current, SK, from 1984 to 1990. Legume water use exceeded that of fallow at 4 to 6 wk after seeding. When legumes were tilled into the soil at full bloom, differences in water content between cropped treatments and fallow were largest and most consistent in the top 0.6 m, suggesting that the legumes extracted water primarily from this depth. In an extreme drought year, substantial water depletion occurred below 0.6 m. Water use efficiency of legumes was 11 to 29 kg ha−1 mm−1, similar to that of spring wheat. Feed pea and chickling vetch used water more efficiently than the other legumes or N-fertilized wheat. Significant differences in WUE across years were related to differences in DM production. Soil water contents above the 0.6-m depth in late fall following green manuring were 62 to 82% that of fallow and increased over winter to 79 to 103% of fallow. Subsoil water was, on average, recharged after wheat to only 68% but following green manure to 81% of fallow. Partial fallow replacement with legumes would reduce the risk of erosion and nutrient leaching and minimize the hazard of salinization and eutrophication of downstream ecosystems.

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