Nutrient cycling in a cropping system with potato, spring wheat, sugar beet, oats and nitrogen catch crops. II. Effect of catch crops on nitrate leaching in autumn and winter

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Abstract

The Nitrate Directive of the European Union (EU) forces agriculture to reduce nitrate emission. The current study addressed nitrate emission and nitrate-N concentrations in leachate from cropping systems with and without the cultivation of catch crops (winter rye: Secale cereale L. and forage rape: Brassica napus ssp. oleifera (Metzg.) Sinksk). For this purpose, ceramic suction cups were used, installed at 80 cm below the soil surface. Soil water samples were extracted at intervals of ca 14 days over the course of three leaching seasons (September-February) in 1992-1995 on sandy soil in a crop rotation comprising potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) and oats (Avena sativa L.). Nitrate-N concentration was determined in the soil water samples. In a selection of samples several cations and anions were determined in order to analyze which cations primarily leach in combination with nitrate. The water flux at 80 cm depth was calculated with the SWAP model. Nitrate-N loss per interval was obtained by multiplying the measured nitrate-N concentration and the calculated flux. Accumulation over the season yielded the total nitrate-N leaching and the seasonal flux-weighted nitrate-N concentration in leachate. Among the cases studied, the total leaching of nitrate-N ranged between 30 and 140 kg ha(-1). Over the leaching season, the flux-weighted nitrate-N concentration ranged between 5 and 25 mg L-1. Without catch crop cultivation, that concentration exceeded the EU nitrate-N standard (11.3 mg L-1) in all cases. Averaged for the current rotation, cultivation of catch crops would result in average nitrate-N concentrations in leachate near or below the EU nitrate standard. Nitrate-N concentrations correlated with calcium concentration and to a lesser extent with magnesium and potassium, indicating that these three ion species primarily leach in combination with nitrate. It is concluded that systematic inclusion of catch crops helps to decrease the nitrate-N concentration in leachate to values near or below the EU standard in arable rotations on sandy soils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-31
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Volume70
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Keywords

  • porous ceramic cups
  • rye cover crop
  • field observations
  • succeeding crops
  • soil
  • denitrification
  • rotation

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