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Cropping System Effects on Nitrogen Removal, Soil Nitrogen, Aggregate Stability, and Subsequent Corn Grain Yield

Anderson, Irvin C., Buxton, Dwayne R., Karlen, Douglas L., Cambardella, Cynthia
Agronomy journal 1997 v.89 no.6 pp. 881-886
Zea mays, Panicum virgatum, Andropogon gerardii, Phalaris arundinacea, Sorghum bicolor, Medicago sativa, Glycine max, nitrogen, soil fertility, crop yield, crop rotation, nitrogen fertilizers, nitrate nitrogen, ammonium nitrogen, soil aggregates, application rate, Iowa
Cropping systems can affect soil quality and productivity of subsequent crops. We conducted this study to evaluate effects of several annual and perennial crop species on N removal, residual soil N, aggregate stability, and subsequent corn (L.) production. Thirteen cropping systems were grown with various rates of N fertilizer for 6 yr on a Typic Calciaquoll soil in central Iowa. Perennial plant species were then killed, corn was planted, and half of each plot was fertilized with 224 kg N ha and half was left unfertilized. Plant analyses showed that the perennial C species, switchgrass (L.) and big bluestem (Vitman vat.), consistently removed the least N. There was little difference for soil total N, NH-N, or NO-N concentrations to a depth of 1 among reed canarygrass (L.), switchgrass, sweet sorghum [ (L.) Moench], and alfalfa (L.). Residual NO-N concentrations were higher to a depth of 1 m for subplots fertilized with 280 kg N ha for 6 yr than for plots fertilized with less N. Aggregates tability did not differ following reed canarygrass, switchgrass, sweet sorghum, or alfalfa. Without N during the 7th yr, corn following sweet sorghum produced the lowest yield (7.5 t ha), whereas the highest yield following a nonlegnme crop was for corn after big bluestem (11.8 t ha). Corn without N following soybean [ (L.) Merr.] yielded 11.1 t ha, while that following alfalfa yielded 13.6 t ha. Fertilizer N reduced the rotation effect, but increased profile N with both perennial and annual crops. Corn following reed canarygrass, big bluestem, alfalfa, soybean, and sorghum intercropped into alfalfa had significantly higher yields (14.1, 14.2, 15.7,14.2, and 15.3 t ha, respectively) than corn following corn (13.0 t ha). Non-N rotation effects (those remaining despite applied N) could not be explained by residual soil N or aggregate stability measurements.