Effects of a catch crop and reduced nitrogen fertilization on nitrogen leaching in greenhouse vegetable production systems

  • Ju Min
  • Weiming Shi
  • Guangxi Xing
  • Hailin Zhang
  • Zhaoliang Zhu
Original Article


Greenhouse vegetable cultivation has greatly increased productivity but has also led to a rapid accumulation of nitrate in soils and probably in plants. Significant losses of nitrate–nitrogen (NO3-N) could occur after heavy N fertilization under open-field conditions combined with high precipitation in the summer. It is urgently needed to improve N management under the wide spread greenhouse vegetable production system. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of a summer catch crop and reduced N application rates on N leaching and vegetable crop yields. During a 2-year period, sweet corn as an N catch crop was planted between vegetable crops in the summer season under 5 N fertilizer treatments (0, 348, 522, 696, and 870 kg ha−1) in greenhouse vegetable production systems in Tai Lake region, southern China. A water collection system was installed at a depth of 0.5 m in the soil to collect leachates during the vegetable growing season. The sweet corn as a catch crop reduced the total N concentration from 94 to 59 mg l−1 in leached water and reduced the average soil nitrate N from 306 to 195 mg kg−1 in the top 0.1-m soil during the fallow period of local farmers’ N application rate (870 kg ha−1). Reducing the amount of N fertilizer and using catch crop during summer fallow season reduced total N leaching loss by 50 and 73%, respectively, without any negative effect on vegetable yields.


Greenhouse vegetable Environmental hazard Summer catch crop Fertilizer N management N loss 



We are grateful to the National Basic Research Program of China (2007CB109303), the NSFC–JST project (No. 30821140542) and the Major Science and Technology Program of China for Water Pollution Control and Treatment (No. 2008ZX07101-005) for financial supports.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ju Min
    • 1
  • Weiming Shi
    • 1
  • Guangxi Xing
    • 1
  • Hailin Zhang
    • 2
  • Zhaoliang Zhu
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable AgricultureInstitute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Soil SciencesOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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