In autumn 1991, sugarbeet tops (Beta vulgaris L.) and different components of oilseed rape residues (Brassica napus L.), both labelled with 15N, were incorporated into the soil under field conditions at Askov Experimental Station, Denmark, using stainless steel cylinders to contain the treatments. The availability of this labelled N to a subsequent crop was measured, using as test crops autumn-sown rye (Secale cereale L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). In spring 1992, cylinders with 15 N-residues received NH4NO3 and those without 15NH415NO3. In a parallel experiment, 15N-labelled beet tops were incorporated in lysimeters. A four-course rotation of sugarbeet, spring barley (undersown with perennial ryegrass Lolium perenne L.), perennial ryegrass and winter wheat at two rates of calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) or animal slurry was grown in these lysimeters. Leaching and the availability of beet top N to successive crops were followed for 2 years. The soil in the cylinders and lysimeters was a light sandy loam (˜ 10% clay).
Of the 7·10 g N/m2 added in beet tops, 10–15% was harvested in two subsequent crops of barley and ryegrass and 13–19% was lost by nitrate leaching. Beet top N accounted for 3–7% of the total N offtake in 1992. In 1993 < 1·5% of the total N offtake in ryegrass was from the beet tops applied in 1991. Combining results from mineral fertilized treatments, it was found that 9% of the beet top N was removed in the first cereal crop, 9% was lost by nitrate leaching and 68% remained in the 0–20 cm soil layer (including roots), suggesting that the denitrification loss was < 15%.
Incorporation of oilseed rape stubble (1·35 g N/m2), two rates of pods (6·25 and 18·75 g N/m2) or mixed residues (12·25 g N/m2) contributed 0·5, 2·3, 7·4 and 4·6%, respectively, to the total N harvested in the following crop of winter wheat. The percentage of the added labelled N taken up by the wheat ranged from 4·9 to 6·1%, with 60–79% remaining in the 0–20 cm layer after harvest.
For beet tops it was calculated that 100 kg N/ha in residues incorporated in the autumn could replace 18 kg N/ha given in the following spring as mineral fertilizer. For oilseed residues, the corresponding average value was 9 kg N/ha.
In fertilized cropping systems, oilseed rape residues had minor effects on the subsequent crop, so that an uneven return of residues, as often occurs with combined crops, would do little harm. A considerable proportion of the N applied in sugarbeet tops was lost by leaching and the residual value of the sugarbeet tops to subsequent crops was low.