Nitrogen Mineralization from Brassica Cover Crops

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2006-07-27

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The potential of forage radish (Raphanus sativus L.), rape (Brassica napus L.), and rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crops to capture residual nitrogen and then provide early season N to subsequent main crops via mineralization from their residues was compared. At four field experiments established in Maryland (2003-2005), N uptake by radish and rape equaled or exceeded that by rye. No differences in soil inorganic N due to cover crop type were observed during spring 2004. In spring 2005, greatest N release from forage radish residues (March-May) was followed by that from rape residues (May-June). Brassica decay significantly increased growth of immature corn and soybean plants. In a 48-day incubation study comparing N mineralization in fine and coarse textured soils from Brassica and rye root or shoot residues, N mineralization was greatest from forage radish and rape shoots. Compared with rye, the Brassica cover crops showed environmental and agronomic promise.

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