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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Winter Legume Effects on Soil Properties and Nitrogen Fertilizer Requirements


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 53 No. 6, p. 1856-1862
    Received: Mar 1, 1989

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. K. A. McVay,
  2. D. E. Radcliffe  and
  3. W. L. Hargrove
  1. Dep. of Agronomy, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211
    Dep. of Agronomy, Univ. of Ga., Athens, GA 30602
    Dep. of Agronomy, Georgia Agric. Exp. Stn., Griffin, GA 30222



Winter legume cover crops have been shown to provide significant amounts of N to subsequent nonleguminous crops, but benefits beyond those directly attributed to N are rarely cited. A 3 yr field study at two Georgia locations utilizing a randomized, complete-block, split-plot design with four replications was begun in 1985 to measure the equivalent fertilizer N supplied by winter annual legumes and to monitor changes in soil physical and chemical properties. Corn, Zea mays L. was grown on a Rome gravelly clay loam soil (fine-loamy, mixed, thermic Typic Hapludult) at the Limestone Valley location, and grain sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L) Moench] on a Greenville sandy clay loam soil (clayey, kaolinitic, thermic Rhodic Paleudult) in the Coastal Plain. Main plots were cover crops of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L), berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum L), winter pea [Pisum sativum subsp. arvense (L) poir], wheat (Triticum aestivum L), and fallow. Subplots were broadcast NH4NO3 fertilizer of varying rates. Hairy vetch and crimson clover replaced the greatest amount of fertilizer N averaging 123 and 99 kg N ha−1, respectively. More water-stable aggregates were found following cover crops than fallow in the 0- to 0.025-m depth at the Coastal Plain location. Higher infiltration rates were found following cover crops than fallow at both locations and infiltration rates were greater following hairy vetch than following wheat at the Coastal Plain site. An adapted winter legume cover crop can replace all of the fertilizer N necessary for optimum rain-fed grain sorghum and up to two-thirds of that required for corn production, and improve soil physical properties.

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