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Faba beans and other legumes add nitrogen to irrigated cotton cropping systems

I. J. Rochester, M. B. Peoples, G. A. Constable and R. R. Gault

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 38(3) 253 - 260
Published: 1998


Summary. Legumes have become common rotation crops in cotton cropping systems in northern New South Wales. Levels of nitrogen fixation and yield achieved on-farm were measured in commercial faba beans and other winter and summer legume crops sown after cotton over 3 years to assess the relative inputs of fixed nitrogen (N) into this system. Faba bean crops fixed up to 350 kg N/ha, removed up to 160 kg N/ha in harvested grain and contributed up to 270 kg fixed N/ha to soil N after harvest. Grain yields, N2 fixation and dry matter production were reduced in late-sown crops and those water-stressed during pod-filling, but most faba bean crops fixed almost 3 times as much N as was removed in grain. Below-ground legume N, determined with 15N shoot feeding techniques, accounted for 40% of the total crop N at peak biomass, or about 100 kg N/ha for the average faba bean crops. Residual fixed N after harvest was predicted from crop dry matter and grain yield, and this could be used to assess the contribution to soil N from faba beans. Amounts of nitrogen fixed by other legume crops ranged from 20 kg N/ha for adzuki bean and droughted lablab to more than 450 kg N/ha by irrigated soybean. Soybean, peanut and Dolichos lablab contributed more fixed N to the soil than adzuki bean, mung bean or pigeon pea under irrigated conditions. Winter crops including field peas, lentils and lupins and green-manured pasture species fixed up to 240 kg N/ha.

© CSIRO 1998

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