Water Use by Legumes and its Effect on Soil Water Status
- M. Badaruddin and
- D. W. Meyer
To make informed decisions on whether to include legumes in cropping systems, information is needed on water use by legumes and its effect on soil water availability to subsequent crops. The objectives of this study were to determine the water use, water use efficiency (WUE), and soil water depletion pattern of four grain legumes and three green-manure or forage legumes. Field studies were conducted on a Fargo silty clay (fine, montmorillonitic, frigid Vertic Haplaquoll) at Fargo and on a Perella-Bearden silty clay loam (fine-silty, mixed, frigid Typic Haplaquoll; fine-silty, frigid Aeric Calciaquoll) at Prosper, ND in 1986 and 1987. Soil water to a depth of 2.2 m was determined by the neutron attenuation method at 15-d intervals. Legume crops used 10 to 25% more seasonal water than wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) across environments, but WUE (kg dry matter ha−1 mm−1 of water) of legumes was 0 to 25% greater than that of wheat. Green-manure and forage legumes generally had greater water use and WUE than grain legumes, and this was associated with their longer growing season and higher dry matter production. Cumulative water depletion during June to September by green-manure, forage, and grain legumes was 70, 63, and 43 mm greater, respectively, than that of a fallow check, and was not significantly different from that of wheat in two of four environments. However, an increase in soil water content occurred at the 0- to 0.3-m soil depth for all treatments in the following spring across three environments. Soil water content in the spring following a legume was not significantly different from that following wheat and was only about 30 mm greater than that of fallow across environments. These results indicate that growing some legumes in cropping systems may not substantially affect the soil water content compared to continuous cereal cropping or to fallow.
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