Exploring optimal catch crops for reducing nitrate leaching in vegetable greenhouse in North China

Hongyuan Zhang, Kelin Hu*, Lijuan Zhang, Yanzhi Ji, Wei Qin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Chinese intensive greenhouse vegetable systems are characterized by high input of water and nutrients, which are not sustainable. There is an urgent need to explore smart and practical strategies to convert the “high input-low output” systems to “optimal input-output” ones. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of different catch crops on reducing nitrate leaching in the vegetable greenhouse during the summer fallow season. A two-year field experiment with three catch crops, i.e., sweet corn (SC), amaranth (A) and sweet sorghum (SG), and no catch crop (CK) were conducted in vegetable greenhouse in Dingzhou city, Hebei province, China. The measured soil water content and inorganic nitrogen (N) content in soil profile, biomass and crop N uptake were used to validate the WHCNS (Soil Water Heat Carbon Nitrogen Simulator) model, soil water movement and nitrate leaching were simulated. The results showed that the catch crops decreased the water drainage by 18.2–29.0% and nitrate leaching by 23.3–42.3% respectively, compared with CK. The water drainage reduction ranked as SC > SG > A, while the nitrate leaching reduction was A > SC > SG. The biomass was SC > SG > A, while the crop N uptake was SC > A > SG. Sweet corn could absorb the residual nitrate in the deep soil layers due to the long root system, while amaranth could absorb most residual nitrate in the surface soil. Amaranth showed greater N-uptake capacity than sweet corn, and the nitrate was mainly accumulated in the surface soil. Planting amaranth as summer catch crop reduced nitrate leaching in the vegetable greenhouses. Our study provides a guideline for selecting effective catch crops in intensive vegetable greenhouses in North China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-282
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume212
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Catch crop
  • Greenhouse vegetable field
  • N uptake
  • Nitrate leaching
  • Soil-crop system model

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