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Cereal and oil seed crops response to organic nitrogen when grown in rotation with annual aerial-seeded pasture legumes

Loi, A., Thomas, D.T., Yates, R.J., Harrison, R.J., D'Antuono, M., Re, G.A., Norman, H.C. and Howieson, J.G. (2022) Cereal and oil seed crops response to organic nitrogen when grown in rotation with annual aerial-seeded pasture legumes. The Journal of Agricultural Science .

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Nitrogen fixation from pasture legumes is a fundamental process that contributes to the profitability and sustainability of dryland agricultural systems. The aim of this research was to determine whether well-managed pastures, based on aerial-seeding pasture legumes, could partially or wholly meet the nitrogen (N) requirements of subsequent grain crops in an annual rotation. Fifteen experiments were conducted in Western Australia with wheat, barley or canola crops grown in a rotation that included the pasture legume species French serradella (Ornithopus sativus), biserrula (Biserrula pelecinus), bladder clover (Trifolium spumosum), annual medics (Medicago spp.) and the non-aerial seeded subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum). After the pasture phase, five rates of inorganic N fertilizer (Urea, applied at 0, 23, 46, 69 and 92 kg/ha) were applied to subsequent cereal and oil seed crops. The yields of wheat grown after serradella, biserrula and bladder clover, without the use of applied N fertilizer, were consistent with the target yields for growing conditions of the trials (2.3 to 5.4 t/ha). Crop yields after phases of these pasture legume species were similar or higher than those following subterranean clover or annual medics. The results of this study suggest a single season of a legume-dominant pasture may provide sufficient organic N in the soil to grow at least one crop, without the need for inorganic N fertilizer application. This has implications for reducing inorganic N requirements and the carbon footprint of cropping in dryland agricultural systems.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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