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N2-fixation and residual N effect of four legume species and four companion grass species

Rasmussen , Jim; Søegaard, Karen; Pirhofer-Walzl, Karin and Eriksen, Jørgen (2011) N2-fixation and residual N effect of four legume species and four companion grass species. European Journal of Agronomy, 1, pp. 1-40. [Submitted]

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Summary

Inclusion of forage legumes in low-input forage mixtures improves herbage production and soil fertility through addition of nitrogen (N) from N2-fixation. The impact of different grass-legume mixtures on the N contribution of the forage mixture has rarely been investigated under comparable soil and climatic conditions. We conducted a field experiment on a sandy soil at two nitrogen levels with seven two-species forage mixtures: alfalfa, bird’s-foot trefoil, red clover, or white clover in mixture with perennial ryegrass, and white clover in mixture with meadow fescue, timothy, or hybrid ryegrass. We found high N2-fixation of more than 300 kg N ha-1 from both red clover and alfalfa even when the two mixtures received 300 kg total-N ha-1 in cattle slurry. The addition of cattle slurry N fertilizer lowered N2-fixation for white clover and red clover as expected, but for bird’s-foot trefoil and alfalfa no changes in the proportion of N derived from N2-fixation was observed. We conclude that the competition for available soil N from perennial ryegrass in mixture was an important factor for the proportion of N in alfalfa, white clover, and bird’s-foot trefoil obtained from N2-fixation. White clover had a high proportion of N derived from atmosphere for all companion grasses despite significant differences in white clover proportion. Although the perennial ryegrass-alfalfa mixture in the grass phase yielded more than twice the N from N2-fixation compared to white clover in the perennial ryegrass mixture, this did not in the following year lead to higher residual N effects of alfalfa. Both in terms of N yield in the grass phase and N yield in the subsequent spring barley red clover contributed most to the improvement of soil N fertility.


EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:N2-fixation, N transfer, residual N effect, companion species, forage legume
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Production systems > Pasture and forage crops
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > ECOVIT - Improved health in organic milk production
Deposited By: Kirkegaard, Lene/LKI
ID Code:19451
Deposited On:06 Oct 2011 12:00
Last Modified:21 Nov 2011 08:15
Document Language:English
Status:Submitted
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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