The Correct Cover Crop Species Integrated with Slurry Can Increase Biomass, Quality and Nitrogen Cycling to Positively Affect Yields in a Subsequent Spring Barley Rotation

Paul Cottney, Lisa Black, Ethel White , Paul Williams

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Abstract

The aim of this study is to identify species of cover crops that cause an increase in biomass and total nutrient accumulation in response to manure/slurry. This could improve nutrient efficiency and intensify the benefits from over-winter cover crops in arable rotations and improve following commercial crop yields. In a pot experiment, sixteen cover crops were grown for 100 days in response to slurry. Growth and nutrient (N, P, K, Mg and S) accumulation were measured, and then residue was reincorporated into the soil with spring barley (Hodeum vulgare L.) sown and harvested for yield. In response to slurry, tillage radish (Raphanus sativus L.) increased N accumulation by 101% due to a significant increase in biomass and % N (p < 0.05) over its relative control plots. Significant interactions between species and the application of slurry were found in cover crop biomass, cover crop and spring barley nutrient uptake, as well as cover crop carbon accumulation, particularly in the brassica species used. Slurry integrated with cover crops both reduced the cover crop C:N ratio and enhanced nutrient cycling compared to the control when soil mineral nitrogen (SMN) and spring barley crop N offtake were pooled. However, this was not observed in the legumes. This study shows that slurry integration with cover crops is a promising sustainable farming practice to sequester N and other macro-nutrients whilst providing a range of synergistic benefits to spring barley production when compared to unplanted/fallow land rotations. However, this advantage is subject to use of responsive cover crop species identified in this study.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAGRONOMY
Early online date12 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 Nov 2020

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