3 years ago

Nitrogen leaching: A crop rotation perspective on the effect of N surplus, field management and use of catch crops

Components of the field nitrogen (N) balance (input and surplus) are often used to predict nitrate leaching from agricultural lands. However, management factors, such as use of catch crops, greatly affect the actual loss and are a key to reduce N leaching. The present study is based on the 4th cycle of a long-term crop rotation experiment in Denmark, and it aims to quantify, from a crop rotation perspective, the influence on N leaching from N input and surplus or management factors. The experiment included three cropping systems (two organic and one conventional) with or without use of animal manure and catch crops. N leaching was calculated from measurements of nitrate in soil water sampled with ceramic suction cups installed at 1 m depth in all plots. At the rotation level, over a four years period, N leaching was positively related to N input and surplus. However, the overall effect of N input and surplus on N leaching was lower than the effect of use of catch crops. The response rates of N leaching to increasing N inputs and N surplus were about 0.08 and 0.19–0.25, respectively. Catch crops reduced N leaching by 23 kg N ha−1, irrespective of conventional and organic management system, with legume-based catch crops being as effective as non-legumes. Animal manure increased N leaching in one of the organic systems. The organic system with two years of green manure per rotation cycle was the one at highest risk of N leaching, especially from crops following green manure incorporation. Spring wheat and potatoes were the two crops with highest N leaching, and a stable low level of N leaching was only achieved above a crop-specific threshold in catch crop biomass.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0167880917305455

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