The benefits of legume crops on corn and wheat yield, nitrogen nutrition, and soil properties improvement.

N'Dayegamiye, A., Whalen, J.K., Tremblay, G.F., Tremblay, G., Nyiraneza, J., Grenier, M., Drapeau, A., and Bipfubusa, M. (2015). "The benefits of legume crops on corn and wheat yield, nitrogen nutrition, and soil properties improvement.", Agronomy Journal, 107(5), pp. 1653-1665. doi : 10.2134/agronj14.0416  Access to full text

Abstract

Legume crops leave N-rich residues and improve soil properties that can boost the yield of subsequent crops. This study conducted at two sites in Québec, eastern Canada, identified the most appropriate preceding legume crops for subsequent corn (Zea mays L.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) yield and N nutrition. Legumes were established in 2011, in monoculture or mixed with grain crops, for a total of 13 treatments: common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), soybean (Glycine max L.), dry pea (Pisum sativum L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), and crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), hairy vetch/wheat, crimson clover/wheat, field pea/wheat, alfalfa/corn, hairy vetch/corn, crimson clover/corn) and a non-N fixing crop (corn) as the control. In 2012, each plot was split and five N fertilizer rates applied to corn and wheat. Four legume systems (alfalfa, hairy vetch, crimson clover, and hairy vetch/wheat) significantly increased the soil structure stability, alkaline phosphatase and dehydrogenase activities at warmer St-Mathieu-de-Beloeil location but not at the cooler St-Lambert-de-Lauzon site. These legumes also significantly increased yields and N nutrition of corn and wheat at St Mathieu-de-Beloeil and of wheat only at St-Lambert-de-Lauzon. Although legume N credit was found low (∼30 kg N ha-1), the N fertilizer replacement value was 51 to 77 kg N ha-1 for corn and up to 37 kg N ha-1 for wheat, depending on the preceding legume crop. This suggests that indirect effects related to improved soil properties impacted positively corn and wheat yield and N nutrition.

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