The effect of delaying autumn incorporation of green manure crop on N mineralization and spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) performance

T. Lahti, P.J. Kuikman

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21 Citations (Scopus)


The use of legumes as green manuring crops does involve a potential riskof N leaching losses over the winter period. The susceptibility of cropresidue-derived N to losses and the pre-crop value of a green manuring crop canbe manipulated by proper timing of incorporation into soil. In this study,mineralization of C and N was investigated in a range of low temperatures,including thawing and freezing, that are characteristic to autumn green manureincorporation and its decomposition. The pre-crop effect of green manuring wasfurther tested with spring wheat under field conditions. We hypothesized thatdelaying green manure incorporation in the autumn would reduce the risk of Nlosses from the field and maximize the N transfer to a successive spring wheatcrop. To test the hypothesis, N mineralization was followed in alaboratory experiment where red clover (Trifoliumpratense L.) shoots were incubated at 4¿8 °Cfor 40¿80 days to simulate early autumn, delayed autumn and late autumnincorporation of a green manuring crop, followed by an incubation at¿2 °C or at ¿2 °C to+4 °C for 25 days to simulate winter conditions. In asimultaneous field experiment, we measured the effect ofdelayed autumn incorporation of common vetch (Vicia sativaL.) green fallow on spring wheat performance. In the laboratoryexperiment, significant N mineralization during incubation wasdetected when simulating both early autumn and delayed autumn incorporation. Incontrast, no net N mineralization was detected when simulating lateincorporation. In the field experiment, the N supply fromsoil to spring wheat was higher in the late and delayed incorporationtreatmentsthan in early or spring incorporation of green manure. Late incorporationalso produced most wheat grain. We conclude that different amounts of N becomeavailable to wheat, depending on the time of incorporation of green manureresidues in soil. This difference is due to temperature. Late or delayedincorporation of green manure residues has the potential to reduce thesusceptibility of mineral N to leaching and yields more N available to asubsequent crop.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-280
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • temporary leguminous pastures
  • nitrogen mineralization
  • low-temperatures
  • soil
  • residues
  • management
  • fertilizer
  • extraction
  • finland
  • field

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