Thumbnail Image

Influence of a legume green manure crop on barley straw/stubble decomposition, and soil nitrogen retention and availability

Kapal, Debbie B.
Fields of Research
The incorporation of cereal straw/stubble often immobilises nitrogen (N). This can help conserve N in soil in organic forms, thus reducing loss through leaching over dormant winter periods. However, N-depressions that arise during decomposition can reduce crop yield. The inclusion of a legume green manure can supply fixed-N, thus alleviating the low N availability to crops. In this study, the effect of lupin (Lupinus angustifolius L.) green manure incorporation on barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) straw/stubble decomposition, and N availability was investigated. A field experiment was used to determine the effects of the green manure on decomposition. Decomposition of straw/stubble was monitored using the litterbag technique. Following green manure incorporation, soil cores were incubated in a glasshouse to determine mineral-N availability. Though not significant, the inclusion of lupin green manure seemed to increase the decomposition of straw/stubble during the growth period, then slowing it after its incorporation at 110 d. This was described by a logarithmic pattern of loss of - 4.97 g AFDW residue day⁻¹, with 60% remaining after 140 d. Treatments without lupin had a linear decomposition of - 0.12 g AFDW residue day⁻¹, with 49% remaining after 140 d. The loss of cellulose confirmed the differences in decomposition with the inclusion of lupin resulting in 2.79% less cellulose remaining in straw/stubble after 140 d compared to its exclusion. Lupin significantly increased pot oat N uptake and DM yield by 55 % and 46 %, respectively, compared to its exclusion. However, this effect was not observed in field sown wheat yields and the soil mineral-N measurements made. This study showed that the potential of lupin to increase straw/stubble decomposition by improving the retention and availability of N, leading to long-term yield benefits, needed further investigation.