Effects of one to six year old ryegrass-clover leys on soil nitrogen and on the subsequent yields and fertilizer nitrogen requirements of the arable sequence winter wheat, potatoes, winter wheat, winter beans (Vicia faba ) grown on a sandy loam soil

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Johnston, A. E., McEwen, J., Lane, P. W., Hewitt, M. V., Poulton, P. R. and Yeoman, D. P. 1994. Effects of one to six year old ryegrass-clover leys on soil nitrogen and on the subsequent yields and fertilizer nitrogen requirements of the arable sequence winter wheat, potatoes, winter wheat, winter beans (Vicia faba ) grown on a sandy loam soil. The Journal of Agricultural Science. 122 (1), pp. 73-89.

AuthorsJohnston, A. E., McEwen, J., Lane, P. W., Hewitt, M. V., Poulton, P. R. and Yeoman, D. P.
Abstract

The largest yields of wheat and potatoes came from the combination of longer ley plus optimum fertilizer N but yields of winter beans were decreased where N had been given to the previous crops. Without fertilizer N, two year old leys significantly increased yields compared to one year leys and the effect of longer leys was small except for the first wheat, when grain yields were large and plateaued after the three year ley.

Exponential response curves were fitted to the wheat yields and an exponential plus linear trend to the potato yields after each of the leys. Maximum yields and maximum economic yields and their associated N dressings were then estimated. Maximum economic yields of wheat in 1987 ranged from 811 to 914 t/ha grain and the fertilizer N needed declined from 174 kg/ha after the one year ley to 48 kg/ha after the six year ley. For potatoes in 1988, yields ranged from 63 to 71 t/ha tubers but the N required (137–150 kg/ha) varied little with ley age. For winter wheat, in 1989 yields ranged from only 5·51 to 6·99 t/ha grain, because of drought but, as with the potatoes, the N required (203–218 kg/ha) varied little. For each crop the six individual N response curves could be shifted to bring them into coincidence, and the benefits of the ley estimated in terms of a quantity of fertilizer N applied in spring (horizontal shift) and effects other than spring N (vertical shift). The spring N effects relative to the one year ley varied with ley age; for the first wheat the range was from 6 to 126 kg N/ha for the two to six year leys respectively. Spring N effects were negligible, however, for potatoes (average 6 kg/ha) and also for wheat in the third year (6 kg/ha). Benefits other than those which could be ascribed to spring N increased yield of the first wheat, on average, by 0·94 t/ha grain for the two to five year leys; for potatoes they ranged from 3·5 to 8·1 t/ha tubers for the three to six year leys; for the third crop wheat they ranged from 0·86 to 1·49 t/ha grain for the three to six year leys.

On average, the first wheat recovered only 34% of the applied fertilizer N whilst potatoes and the following wheat recovered 55 and 56% respectively. There was a benefit from the longer leys which affected the efficiency with which fertilizer N was used.

Increasing ley age up to five years increased total soil carbon by a maximum of 0·17%C; 18% of the carbon content of the soil in the one year ley plots. This small increase in soil organic matter provided up to 230 kg/ha mineral N in the first autumn after ploughing. Between 17 October 1986 and 27 April 1987 the average loss of NO3-N from soils following three to six year leys was equivalent to 202 kg N/ha, whilst the average uptake of N by 11 May in the above-ground wheat was only 88 kg/ha; the net loss was 114 kg N/ha. A computer simulation, which included mineralization of organic N during this period together with N uptake and nitrate leaching losses, computed a loss of 250 kg N/ha following the six year ley, and this would have given 400 mg NO3/1 in the 275 mm through drainage that winter.

Year of Publication1994
JournalThe Journal of Agricultural Science
Journal citation122 (1), pp. 73-89
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1017/S0021859600065825
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or code920
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Publication dates
Online27 Mar 2009
Copyright licenseCC BY

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