Plant and Soil

, Volume 268, Issue 1, pp 209–219 | Cite as

Cropping system and nitrogen dynamics under a cereal winter cover crop preceding corn

  • S. M. Crandall
  • M. L. Ruffo
  • G. A. Bollero


Cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) has been identified as a potential nitrogen (N) management tool when used as a winter cover crop (WCC). However, N deficient corn (Zea mays L.) has often been observed when preceded by a cereal rye WCC, resulting in yield reductions and deterring the integration of WCC into cropping systems of the Corn Belt. The objectives of this study were to assess soil N availability and plant N status throughout the corn growing season under various combinations of cereal rye kill date and N-fertilizer strategy in Illinois. Cereal rye WCC was killed three (KT1), two (KT2), and one (KT3) weeks prior to optimal corn planting, and N-fertilizer strategies included combinations of N splits (early and late) and N strategies (at planting, divided between planting and V6, or at V6). Although initial reductions in soil mineral N were observed in cereal rye WCC plots at planting of corn, soil mineral N among all cereal rye kill date and early N strategy plots was improved by the V6 stage and remained equal throughout the growing season. Corn under the latest cereal rye kill date in combination with its total N-fertilizer (160 kg N ha−1) allotted at V6 had lower N contents by the R1 stage than any other kill date, N strategy combination. Relative corn N deficiencies and grain yield reductions were not observed unless cereal rye kill date was delayed to one week before optimal corn planting in Illinois (KT3) and N-fertilizer applied in full at the V6 stage of corn development (late N split, V6 strategy). Residual soil nitrate (NO3-N) remaining post-harvest of corn varied between cereal rye WCC treatments and the fallow control depending on the N strategy employed throughout the season, indicating that N usage and demands of a winter fallow cropping system and cereal rye WCC systems under different residue loads require different N-fertilizer strategies to achieve more efficient N synchrony.


Corn Soil Mineral Yield Reduction Corn Planting Cereal Winter 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. M. Crandall
    • 1
  • M. L. Ruffo
    • 1
  • G. A. Bollero
    • 1
  1. 1.Crop Sciences Department University of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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