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Nitrogen contribution of rye–hairy vetch cover crop mixtures to organically grown sweet corn

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2012

Andrew Lawson
Affiliation:
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6420, USA.
Ann Marie Fortuna*
Affiliation:
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6420, USA.
Craig Cogger
Affiliation:
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Puyallup, WA, USA.
Andy Bary
Affiliation:
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Puyallup, WA, USA.
Tami Stubbs
Affiliation:
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6420, USA.
*
*Corresponding author: afortuna@wsu.edu

Abstract

Organic cropping systems that utilize winter grown cereal–legume cover crop mixtures can increase plant available nitrogen (N) to a subsequent cash crop, but the rate of N release is uncertain due to variations in residue composition and environmental conditions. A study was conducted to evaluate N availability from rye (Secale cereale L.)–hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) cover crop mixtures and to measure the response of organically grown sweet corn (Zea mays L.) to N provided by cover crop mixtures. Nitrogen availability from pure rye, pure hairy vetch, and rye–vetch mixtures was estimated using laboratory incubation with controlled temperature and soil moisture. Sweet corn N response was determined in a 2-year field experiment in western Washington with three cover crop treatments as main plots (50:50 rye–vetch seed mixture planted mid September, planted early October, and none) and four feather meal N rates as subplots (0, 56, 112 and 168 kg available N ha−1). Pure hairy vetch and a 75% rye–25% hairy vetch biomass mixture (R75V25) released similar amounts of N over 70 days in the laboratory incubation. But, the initial release of N from the (R75V25) treatment was nearly 70% lower, which may result in N release that is better timed with crop uptake. Cover crops in the field were dominated by rye and contained 34–76 kg ha−1 total N with C:N ranging from 18 to 27. Although time of planting and management of cover crop quality improved N uptake in sweet corn, cover crops provided only supplemental plant available N in this system.

Type
Research Papers
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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