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Sustaining productivity of a Vertosol at Warra, Queensland, with fertilisers, no-tillage or legumes. 8. Effect of duration of lucerne ley on soil nitrogen and water, wheat yield and protein.

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Dalal, R.C., Weston, E.J., Strong, W.M., Probert, M.E., Lehane, K.J., Cooper, J.E., King, A.J. and Holmes, C.J. (2004) Sustaining productivity of a Vertosol at Warra, Queensland, with fertilisers, no-tillage or legumes. 8. Effect of duration of lucerne ley on soil nitrogen and water, wheat yield and protein. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 44 (10). pp. 1013-1024.


Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EA03166

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au


Soil nitrogen (N) supply in the Vertosols of southern Queensland, Australia has steadily declined as a result of long-term cereal cropping without N fertiliser application or rotations with legumes. Nitrogen-fixing legumes such as lucerne may enhance soil N supply and therefore could be used in lucerne-wheat rotations. However, lucerne leys in this subtropical environment can create a soil moisture deficit, which may persist for a number of seasons. Therefore, we evaluated the effect of varying the duration of a lucerne ley (for up to 4 years) on soil N increase, N supply to wheat, soil water changes, wheat yields and wheat protein on a fertility-depleted Vertosol in a field experiment between 1989 and 1996 at Warra (26degrees 47'S, 150degrees53'E), southern Queensland.

The experiment consisted of a wheat-wheat rotation, and 8 treatments of lucerne leys starting in 1989 (phase 1) or 1990 (phase 2) for 1,2,3 or 4 years duration, followed by wheat cropping. Lucerne DM yield and N yield increased with increasing duration of lucerne leys. Soil N increased over time following 2 years of lucerne but there was no further significant increase after 3 or 4 years of lucerne ley. Soil nitrate concentrations increased significantly with all lucerne leys and moved progressively downward in the soil profile from 1992 to 1995. Soil water, especially at 0.9-1.2 m depth, remained significantly lower for the next 3 years after the termination of the 4 year lucerne ley than under continuous wheat. No significant increase in wheat yields was observed from 1992 to 1995, irrespective of the lucerne ley. However, wheat grain protein concentrations were significantly higher under lucerne-wheat than under wheat wheat rotations for 3-5 years. The lucerne yield and soil water and nitrate-N concentrations were satisfactorily simulated with the APSIM model. Although significant N accretion occurred in the soil following lucerne leys, in drier seasons, recharge of the drier soil profile following long duration lucerne occurred after 3 years.

Consequently, 3- and 4-year lucerne-wheat rotations resulted in more variable wheat yields than wheat-wheat rotations in this region. The remaining challenge in using lucerne-wheat rotations is balancing the N accretion benefits with plant-available water deficits, which are most likely to occur in the highly variable rainfall conditions of this region.

Item Type:Article
Corporate Creators:Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Agri-Science, Crop and Food Science
Business groups:Crop and Food Science
Additional Information:Reproduced with permission from © CSIRO Publishing. Access to published version may be available via Publisher’s website.
Keywords:Soil nitrogen; Vertosol.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Special aspects of agriculture as a whole > Sustainable agriculture
Plant culture > Field crops > Wheat
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Plant culture > Field crops > Forage crops. Feed crops
Live Archive:10 Mar 2005
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:43

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