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Net Nitrogen Mineralisation in Maize-Cover Crop Rotations in Mediterranean Central Chile


The main aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of the maize-cover crop rotation (Zm-cc) in the soil net nitrogen mineralisation (NNM) by measuring in situ NNM incubation in the upper soil (0–25 cm) during spring-summer (October–March) and autumn-winter (April–September) seasons and compared with other rotation in Mediterranean Central Chile. The study was carried out at 5 experimental fields (only irrigated in spring-summer period), where four common soil use or maize-based rotations were evaluated: permanent fallow (F-F); maize-fallow (Zm-F); maize-cover crop (Zm-cc); and permanent cover crops (cc-cc). In these fields were carried out NNM in situ determinations in F-F (n = 18), Zm-F (n = 31), Zm-cc (n = 43), and cc-cc (n = 51) combinations (totalise n = 143), which were collected during spring-summer and autumn-winter in different periods between 2011 and 2018. During the spring-summer period, it was found that the NNM was highest in the Zm-cc rotations with a mean value of 36 kg N ha−1, whereas the lowest NNM values were in F-F soil use with and mean of 6 kg N ha−1. In contrast, during autumn-winter season, the NNM was highest in the F-F soil use with a mean of 34 kg N ha−1, while the lowest NNM values were found in Zm-cc rotation with a mean of − 38 kg N ha−1. During the spring-summer period, the Zm-cc rotation had the highest NNM values because cc increased the soil organic matter (SOM) content for microbial activity, whereas in autumn-winter, the Zm-cc rotation had the lowest NNM values because the cc added fresh SOM that increased N immobilisation process.

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The authors thank several students from the Soil and Water Management Master Programme at the University of Chile.


This study was partially financed by CONICYT Project No. 1150572 (Regular FONDECYT) and the Department of Engineering and Soil (University of Chile).

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Correspondence to Osvaldo Salazar.

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Salazar, O., Casanova, M., Nájera, F. et al. Net Nitrogen Mineralisation in Maize-Cover Crop Rotations in Mediterranean Central Chile. J Soil Sci Plant Nutr (2020).

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  • Climate change
  • Nitrogen dynamics
  • N immobilisation
  • Soil temperature