Legume Green Manures and Conservation Tillage for Grain Sorghum Production on Prairie Soil
- Daniel W. Sweeney and
- Joseph L. Moyer
With increased emphasis on conservation tillage, information is needed on the use of spring- or fall-seeded legumes as green manures for eastern Great Plains grain sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] production. This study was conducted to determine whether legumes can be beneficial to subsequent grain sorghum crops grown in conservation tillage systems on prairie soil. Comparisons included the effects of (i) red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) before grain sorghum vs. continuous grain sorghum, (ii) reduced or no-tillage, and (iii) fertilizer N rates on grain sorghum grown on two sites of a Parsons silt loam (fine, mixed, thermic Mollic Albaqualf). Surface soil at Site 1 was higher in pH (7.2 vs. 6.2), P (12 vs. 4 mg kg−1), and K (80 vs. 60 mg kg−1) than at Site 2. Yield of the first sorghum crop after legume kill-down in 1987 ranged from 79 to 131% more than for continuous grain sorghum. At the higher fertility Site 1, red clover residual increased yields to 3.7 from 2.7 Mg ha−1 with continuous grain sorghum in the third year; at the lower fertility Site 2, the legume residual did not influence yield after the first year. First-year grain sorghum yielded 1.1 to 1.6 Mg ha−1 more with reduced tillage than with no-tillage, but the difference was less in subsequent years. In 1987, yield was not affected by fertilizer N even following grain sorghum, but the response was significant in subsequent years. Low N response on this high organic matter prairie soil contributed to uncertain fertilizer N equivalencies and suggested other non-N benefits from the legumes.
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