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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Soil Nitrogen and Carbon Response to Maize Cropping System, Nitrogen Source, and Tillage


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 61 No. 5, p. 1387-1392
    Received: May 17, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): mreeves@panna.org
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  1. Margaret Reeves ,
  2. Rattan Lal,
  3. Terry Logan and
  4. Juan Sigarán
  1. PAN North America Regional Center, 116 New Montgomery, #810, San Francisco, CA 94105
    School of Natural Resources, Ohio State Univ., Columbus, OH
    Centro de Investigaciones Agronómicas, Universidad de Costa Rica, Apdo 34-2060, San José, Costa Rica



These experiments were conducted to evaluate the combined effects of intercropping and N source and the interaction of these two factors with tillage on N dynamics. Maize (Zea mays L.) was planted in two consecutive years in Costa Rica to measure changes in soil mineral N, soil C, and maize grain N in response to monoculture or polyculture and legume residues or NH4NO3 fertilizer under conventional (CT) or minimum (MT) tillage. Soil mineral N levels were greater with fertilizer than with residues at the end of the first season and greater with residues at the beginning of the second season, reflecting a residual effect from the previous season. There were no treatment interactions. The dominant form of mineral N shifted from NO3-N (first season) to NH+4-N (second season). The shift corresponded to an overall increase in soil C (from 27.6 to 30.2 g kg−1), which was significantly greater under monoculture and with residues (33.2 and 33.4 g kg−1, respectively) than under polyculture and fertilizer (31.1 and 30.9 g kg−1, respectively). A positive cropping system × N source interaction resulted in 67% greater maize grain N in the polyculture under residues than with fertilizer N. Maize response to polyculture and legume residues, together with soil N and C data, were used to propose a mechanistic explanation for how these strategies may help maintain productivity (and minimize N loss) in low-input farming systems.

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