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Subsequent nitrogen utilisation and soil water distribution as affected by forage radish cover crop and nitrogen fertiliser in a corn silage production system

Wang, Fang, Weil, Ray R., Han, Lei, Zhang, Mingxin, Sun, Zhaojun, Nan, Xiongxiong
Acta agriculturæ Scandinavica 2019 v.69 no.1 pp. 52-61
corn, corn silage, cover crops, fertilizer rates, forage, grain yield, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, planting, radishes, soil profiles, soil water, soil water storage, sowing, total nitrogen, water distribution, winter, North America
Forage radish is a unique winter cover crop that is relatively new but becoming rapidly adopted in temperate, humid North America. Little is known about how the use of this cover crop may influence subsequent nitrogen availability, soil water accumulation in the soil profile in corn silage production system. In this present work, the average nitrogen uptake by silage corn increased significantly by 11.6% in cover plots compared with the no-cover control plots. The recovery efficiency and agronomic efficiency of applied nitrogen in silage corn declined in cover plots compared to no-cover plots. The average soil water storage in cover plots was significantly higher than in the control after corn sowing and at the harvest stage. With increasing nitrogen application level, the average corn grain yield increased significantly at 56 and 112 kg N ha⁻¹ by 13.1% and 39.8%, respectively. Planting a forage radish cover crop can facilitate growth of silage corn and markedly improve total nitrogen uptake of corn. Consideration should be given to nitrogen application rate and also to avoiding excessive nitrogen input in the subsequent crop following a cover crop, thereby truly improving subsequent fertiliser use efficiency.