Winter Annual Cover Crops Interseeded into Soybean in Eastern Virginia: Influence on Soil Nitrogen, Corn Yield, and In-Season Soil Nitrogen Tests
Norris, Robert Brooke
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The diverse cropping system of eastern Virginia's coastal plain offers limited opportunity to establish winter annual cover crops (WCC) for nitrogen (N) scavenging. The winter fallow niche after double-crop or full-season soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) encompasses the majority of acres left fallow. Our objective was to evaluate interseeded WCC N scavenging performance following soybean and N supplying capacity to subsequent corn (Zea mays L.). Field studies were conducted at four different locations in each of the two study years. The experimental design was split plot with cereal rye, hairy vetch, and RV mix WCC as main plots and ten fertilizer nitrogen (FN) rates in a factorial arrangement (0 and 45 kg FN ha-1 as starter; and 0, 45, 90, 135, and 180 kg FN ha-1 at sidedress) to corn as subplots. The highest N uptake for cereal rye at winter dormancy was 18 kg N ha-1, but the average was 6-7 kg N ha-1. At WCC termination average N uptake for cereal rye was 35 and 40 kg N ha-1 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Average biomass dry matter (DM) at WCC termination for cereal rye, cereal rye + hairy vetch mix (RV mix), and hairy vetch was 2356, 2000, and 1864 kg ha-1 in 2013; and 2055, 2701, and 692 kg ha-1 in 2014, respectively. Average cereal rye N uptake was 35 kg N ha-1 in 2013 and 40 kg N ha-1 in 2014. Significant differences for residual soil nitrogen were most apparent for soil nitrate (NO3-N) at lower depths (15-30 and 30-60 cm) during WCC termination and in the upper 0-15 cm during corn growth stage (GS) V4 of both years. Corn grain yield plateau following hairy vetch WCC was 0.7 and 0.6 Mg ha-1 higher than when following cereal rye WCC at zero and 45 kg ha-1 starter FN, respectively. Average agronomic optimum FN rates (AONR) were 26 and 9 kg ha-1 lower following hairy vetch than cereal rye WCC at zero and 45 kg ha-1 starter FN, respectively. Estimated hairy vetch FN reductions by FN replacement and AONR difference methods were 48 and 18 kg FN ha-1 in plots receiving zero starter FN; and 58 and -43 kg FN ha-1 in plots receiving 45 kg ha-1 starter FN. In-season soil N tests did not offer adequate information in order to predict sidedress FN reductions. These findings suggest that cereal rye and RV mix have the potential to scavenge and conserve residual soil N and hairy vetch is more than capable to supply PAN to subsequent corn when interseeded into soybean.
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