Preceding crops and nitrogen fertilization influence soil nitrogen cycling in no-till canola and wheat cropping systems.

St. Luce, M., Grant, C.A., Ziadi, N., Zebarth, B.J., O'Donovan, J.T., Blackshaw, R.E., Harker, K.N., Johnson, E.N., Gan, Y.T., Lafond, G.P., May, W.E., Malhi, S.S., Turkington, T.K., Lupwayi, N.Z., and McLaren, D.L. (2016). "Preceding crops and nitrogen fertilization influence soil nitrogen cycling in no-till canola and wheat cropping systems.", Field Crops Research, 191, pp. 20-32. doi : 10.1016/j.fcr.2016.02.014  Access to full text


Crop rotation and nitrogen (N) fertilization can influence soil N cycling, however, less is known about their interactive effects under varying soil and climatic conditions. We examined the interactive effects of preceding crops and N fertilizer rates on soil N cycling in canola (Brassica napus L.) and spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cropping systems in no-till soils in the Canadian prairies. Field pea (Pisum sativum L.), lentil (Lens culinaris Medik), faba bean (Vicia faba L.; faba bean-seed), canola and wheat grown for grain, and faba bean green manure (faba bean-GRM) were the preceding crops and were direct-seeded at 7 and 6 locations in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Canola and wheat were seeded in 2010 and 2011 (2012 for wheat at one site), respectively with N fertilizer applied at 0, 30, 60, 90 and 120 kg N ha−1. Above-ground residue N returned was greatest for faba bean-GRM and lowest for canola and wheat. On average across sites, apparent in-crop N mineralization (ANM) under canola was greater following faba bean-GRM than all other preceding crops, except field pea, while under wheat, ANM was greater following all the legumes than following canola and wheat. Crop N uptake increased with N fertilizer rate, but the response was generally lower following faba bean-GRM and lentil. The N budget showed that 40–65% of crop N uptake (35–100% at highest ANM site) was possibly derived from ANM, more so following legumes, as compared to 35–60% from N fertilizer. The surplus and unaccounted N were particularly pronounced when canola and wheat were preceded by legumes rather than by canola or wheat. Our findings indicate that legumes can enhance soil N supply in no-till soils, and also highlight the importance of adjusting N fertilizer rates based on preceding crops to minimize the potential for N losses.

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