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Winter cover crops as green manure in a temperate region: the effect on nitrogen budget and yield of silage maize

Ćupina, B., Vujić, S., Krstić, Dj., Radanović, Z., Čabilovski, R., Manojlović, M., Latković, D.
Crop & pasture science 2017 v.68 no.11 pp. 1060-1069
Triticosecale, Vicia sativa subsp. sativa, Zea mays, autumn, cover crops, crop yield, ecosystem services, fallow, fertilizer application, field experimentation, green manures, mineralization, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, organic matter, plowing, soil, temperate zones, triticale, weather, Serbia
Winter cover crops may provide different environmental benefits in agricultural systems. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of cover crops used as green manure on the soil nitrogen (N) budget and yield of silage maize (Zea mays L.). A field experiment was conducted between 2011 and 2013 at three locations in Vojvodina Province, Serbia. It compared common vetch (Vicia sativa L.), triticale (× Triticosecale Wittm. ex A. Camus), their mixture grown as cover crops, N fertilisation at two doses (N1 and N2), and an unfertilised fallow as a control. Cover crops were sown in autumn 2011 and 2012 and were ploughed in during May of the year after which silage maize was sown. Results show that the ability of cover crops to provide benefit for a subsequent crop is highly related to weather conditions, mainly precipitation. The two years of the study experienced completely different weather conditions, showing two aspects of how cover crops can affect subsequent crop yield and amount of N left in the soil. In 2012, the N budget was higher in all three cover crops at all locations than N1 and the control because of unfavourable weather conditions for mineralisation of organic matter. However, the cover crops had a negative effect on silage maize yield. In 2013 (an average year), the N budget was significantly higher after cover crops, and was followed by a higher yield of silage maize. Based on the 2-year average, the highest value of apparent N remaining in the soil was recorded in the mixture treatment (288.13kg N ha-1); treatments with vetch and triticale had approximately equal values (272.17 and 272.71kg N ha-1). The N fertilisation treatments and the control had significantly lower average values of residual N.