Symbiotic N2-fixation by the cover crop Pueraria phaseoloides as influenced by litter mineralization

J.M. Vesterager, S. Østerby, E.S. Jensen, J.K. Schjoerring

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    The perennial legume Pueraria phaseoloides is widely used as a cover crop in rubber and oil palm plantations. However, very little knowledge exists on the effect of litter mineralization from P. phaseoloides on its symbiotic N-2- fixation. The contribution from symbiotic N-2-fixation (Ndfa) and litter N (Ndfl) to total plant N in P phaseoloides was determined in a pot experiment using a N-15 cross-labeling technique. For determination of N-2-fixation the non-fixing plant Axonopus compressus was used as a reference. The experiment was carried out in a growth chamber during 9 weeks with a sandy soil and 4 rates of ground litter (C/N=16, 2.8% N).

    P. phaseoloides plants supplied with the highest amount of litter produced 26% more dry matter and fixed 23% more N than plants grown in soil with no litter application, but the percentage of Ndfa decreased slightly, but significantly, from 87 to 84%. The litter N uptake was directly proportional to the rate of application and constituted 10% of total plant N at the highest application rate. additionally, a positive correlation was found between litter N uptake and the amount of fixed N-2. The total recovery of litter N in plants averaged 26% at harvest (shoot + root) and was not affected by the quantity added. A parallel incubation experiment also showed that, as an average of all litter levels, 26% of the litter N was present in the inorganic N pool. The amounts of fertilizer and soil N taken up by plants decreased with litter application, probably due to microbial immobilization and denitrification. It is concluded that, within the litter levels studied, litter mineralization will result in a higher amount of N-2-fixed by P. phaseoloides.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Publication statusPublished - 1995

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