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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Nitrogen-15 Recovery and Release by Rye and Crimson Clover Cover Crops


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 61 No. 3, p. 943-948
    Received: Mar 22, 1996

    * Corresponding author(s): noah_ranells@mail.ehnr.state.nc.us
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  1. Noah N. Ranells  and
  2. Michael G. Wagger
  1. North Carolina Dep. of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, P.O. Box 27687, Raleigh, NC 27611
    Dep. of Soil Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619



A grass-legume biculture may be preferred over a legume monoculture cover crop due to the scavenging ability of a grass species, especially when high residual soil N levels are present following summer droughts in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Rye (Secale cereale L.) and crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) were grown in monoculture and as a biculture in a 2-yr field experiment on a Typic Kandiudult to assess cover crop recovery of fertilizer 15N and the subsequent corn (Zea mays L.) uptake of cover crop residue 15N. Potassium nitrate labeled with 10 atom % 15N was applied to microplots at 50 kg N ha-1 1 wk after seeding the cover crops, which were monitored for recovery of fertilizer 15N. Labeled residue was placed in a new microplot to monitor release of residue 15N and its recovery by corn. Averaged across both years, rye monoculture recovered 39% of the labeled 15N fertilizer compared with 19% in the rye-crimson clover biculture and 4% in the crimson clover monoculture. Following corn harvest and averaged across both years, total recovery of 15N fertilizer from the original microplots (cover crop, corn biomass, and soil N) was 29% for crimson clover, 75% for rye, 55% for rye-crimson clover biculture, and 20% for the native winter weeds. In 1993, corn recovery of residue 15N was lowest in the rye monoculture (4%) compared with other treatments (20–35%). Results indicated that a rye-crimson clover biculture was capable of recovering greater residual 15N than a crimson clover monoculture, but less than rye monoculture.

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