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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 3, p. 848-856
    Received: Mar 29, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): Bearem@crop.cri.nz
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Management Effects on Barley Straw Decomposition, Nitrogen Release, and Crop Production

  1. M. H. Beare *,
  2. P. E. Wilson,
  3. P. M. Fraser and
  4. R. C. Butler
  1. New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research, Ltd., Canterbury Agriculture and Science Centre, Private Bag 4704, Christchurch, New Zealand


Development of sustainable-crop production systems depends on identifying effective strategies for the management of postharvest crop residues. The effects of time-of-incorporation (autumn-incorporated [AI] vs. spring-incorporated [SI] and irrigation (irrigated[Irr] vs. nonirrigated[Nirr]) on barley Hordeum vulgare L. straw decomposition and microbial activity were investigated in relation to soil N availability and crop production over one cropping cycle in Canterbury, New Zealand. Over the winter-fallow period, the weight loss of AI barley straw averaged 33% as compared with 18% for surface straw of SI treatments. By harvest, nearly all of the difference in mass loss between AI and SI straw (17%) from NIrr treatments could be attributed to decomposition in the fallow period. Irrigation increased straw decomposition during the cropping period by 68% in AI treatment compared with only 37% in SI treatment. The effect of winter-straw placement on the response of barley straw to summer irrigation was related to the size of the residue-borne microbial populations at the start of the cropping period. Although relatively little N was released (<5 kg N ha−1) from decaying barley straw, cultivation, and incorporation of straw in autumn (AI) did result in greater topsoil (0–25 cm) mineral N levels during the winter period as compared with the SI treatment. Overall, Irr and AI of straw increased the dry matter production and N uptake of the summer barley crop, resulting in a concomitant decrease in soil mineral N levels relative to Nirr SI treatments. The mechanisms that explain this difference in crop response to winter residue management require further investigation.

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Copyright © 2002. Soil Science SocietyPublished in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.66:848–856.