Winter Rye Cover Crop Biomass Production, Degradation, and Nitrogen Recycling

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2016-01-29
Authors
Sawyer, John
Pantoja, Jose
Woli, Krishna
Sawyer, John
Barker, Daniel
Barker, Daniel
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Agronomy
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Agronomy
Abstract

Winter rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop (RCC) use in corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max. (L.) Merr.] production can alter N dynamics compared to no RCC. The objectives of this study were to evaluate RCC biomass production (BP) and subsequent RCC degradation (BD) and N recycling in a no-till corn–soybean (CS) rotation. Aboveground RCC was sampled at spring termination for biomass dry matter (DM), C, and N. To evaluate BD and remaining C and N, RCC biomass was put into nylon mesh bags, placed on the soil surface, and collected multiple times over 105 d. Treatments included rye cover crop following soybean (RCC-FS) and corn (RCC-FC), and prior-year N applied to corn. Overall, the RCC BP and N was low due to low soil profile NO3–N. Across sites and years, the greatest BP was with RCC-FC that received 225 kg N ha–1 (1280 kg DM ha–1), with similar N uptake as with RCC-FS (27 kg N ha–1). The RCC biomass and N remaining decreased over time following an exponential decay. An average 62% biomass with RCC-FS and RCC-FC degraded after 105 d; however, N recycled was greater with RCC-FS than RCC-FC [22 (80%) vs. 14 (64%) kg N ha–1, respectively], and was influenced by the RCC C/N ratio. The RCC did not recycle an agronomically meaningful amount of N, which limited N that could potentially be supplied to corn. Rye cover crops can conserve soil N, and with improved management and growth, recycling of crop-available N should increase.

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This article is from Agronomy Journal 108 (2016): 841, doi: 10.2134/agronj2015.0336. Posted with permission.

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