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Winter-hardy legumes deliver significant amounts of N to organic corn on a sandy loam soil in southern Ontario

Xueming Yang, Craig Drury, Dan Reynolds, Jingyi Yang, Mary-Anne Reeb. 2017. Winter-hardy legumes deliver significant amounts of N to organic corn on a sandy loam soil in southern Ontario. 2017 Guelph Organic Conference Guelph 2017/01/26 - 2017/01/29.


The fallow period after winter wheat harvest in the humid temperate southern Ontario, Canada, bears a high risk for N leaching out of the crop root zone into the water systems, eventually into the Great Lakes in the region. Cover crops have the potential to scavenge N losses and increase cropping system resiliency by providing nutrients to crops and adding organic residues to the soils. This poster reports a 3-yr cover crop study including Crimson clover (CC), hairy vetch (HV), red clover (RC), a non cover crop conventionally managed control (CK) and a non cover crop organic control (CKO) after winter wheat harvest. The objectives are to reports: (1) how much N can be scavenged; (2) what is the reduction of residual mineral N in soil profile in cover crop fields; (3) what is the contribution of cover crops to the consequent corn yields. Before freeze-up, the amounts of total N in above ground biomass were 175, 146, and 107 kg ha-1, respectively, in CC, HV and RC treatments and 9.1, 16.9, and 24.8 kg ha-1 in roots for corresponding treatments. The N contents in plant above ground biomass changed to 87, 241 and 207 kg ha-1 in CC, HV, and RC plots before corn planting. It indicates that the HV and RC gained more N but CC lost N over winter. The contents of soil mineral N was around 75-80 kg N ha-1 in 0-90 cm after winter wheat harvest for all treatments (including CK). After about 3 month cover crop growth, the contents of residual soil mineral N diverged, with about a 10 kg N ha-1 decrease in the cover crop treatments versus a significant increase (65 kg N ha-1) in the non cover crop control treatment. The corn grain yields were 14363 kg ha-1 for the fertilized conventional control (CK) and only 6566 kg ha-1 for the organic control (CKO). In comparison, the corn grain yields were 10233 kg ha-1 for the CC, 12234 kg ha-1 for the HV and 12315 kg ha-1 for the RC treatments, respectively.

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