Nitrogen fertilizer in leucaena alley cropping: I. Maize response to nitrogen fertilizer and fate of fertilizer nitrogen-15

Xu, Z.H.; Saffigna, P.G.; Myers, R.J.K.; Chapman, A.L.

Fertilizer Research 33(3): 219-227


Accession: 009099786

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Field microplot experiments were conducted in the semi-arid tropics of northern Australia to evaluate the response of maize (Zea mays L.) growth to addition of N fertilizer and plant residues and to examine the fate of fertilizer 15N in a leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) alley cropping system, in which supplemental irrigation was used. Leucaena prunings, maize residues and N fertilizer were applied to alley-cropped maize grown in microplots which were installed in the alleys formed by leucaena hedgerows spaced 4.5 metres apart. The 15N-labelled fertilizer was used to examine the fate of fertilizer N applied in the presence of mulched leucaena prunings and maize residues. Application of leucaena prunings increased maize yield while addition of N fertilizer in the presence of the prunings produced a further increase in maize production. There was a significant positive interaction between N fertilizer and leucaena prunings in increasing maize production. The addition of maize residues in the presence of N fertilizer and leucaena prunings decreased maize yield and N uptake and increased fertilizer 15N loss from 38% to 47%. Maize recovered 24-79% of fertilizer 15N in one cropping season, depending on application rate of N fertilizer and field management of plant residues. About 20-34% of fertilizer 15N remained in the soil. More than 37% of fertilizer 15N was apparently lost from the soil and plant system largely through denitrification when N fertilizer was applied at 40 kg Na ha-1 or more in the presence or absence of plant residues. Application of N fertilizer improved maize yield and increased the contribution of mulched leucaena prunings to crop production in the alley cropping system.