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Research article2011Peer reviewed

Clover cover crops under-sown in winter wheat increase yield of subsequent spring barley-Effect of N dose and companion grass

Bergkvist, Göran; Stenberg, Maria; Wetterlind, Johanna; Båth, Birgitta; Elfstrand, Sara


Four two-year field trials, arranged in randomised split-plots, were carried out in southern Sweden with the aim of determining whether reduced N fertiliser dose in winter wheat production with spring under-sown clover cover crops, with or without perennial ryegrass in the seed mixture, would increase the clover biomass and hence the benefits of the cover crops in terms of the effect on the wheat crop, on a subsequent barley crop and on the risk of N leaching. Four doses of nitrogen (0, 60, 120 or 180 kg N ha(-1)) constituted the main plots and six cover crop treatments the sub-plots. The cover crop treatments were red clover (Trifolium pratense L). white clover (Trifolium repens L) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) in pure stands and in mixtures. The winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) was harvested in August and the cover crops were ploughed under in November. The risk of N leaching was assessed in November by measuring the content of mineral N in the soil profile (0-30, 30-90 cm). In the following year, the residual effects of the cover crops were investigated in spring barley (Hordeum distichon L) without additional N. Under-sowing of cover crops did not influence wheat yield, while reduced N fertiliser dose decreased yield and increased the clover content of the cover crops. When N was applied, the mixed cover crops were as effective in depleting soil mineral nitrogen as a pure ryegrass cover crop, while pure clover was less efficient. The clover content at wheat harvest as well as the amount of N incorporated with the cover crops had a positive correlation with barley yield. Spring barley in the unfertilised treatments yielded, on average, 1.9-2.4 Mg DM ha(-1) more in treatments with clover cover crops than in the treatment without cover crops. However, this positive effect decreased as the N dose to the preceding wheat crop increased, particularly when the clover was mixed with grass. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Cover crops; Winter wheat; Spring barley; Catch crop effect; Residual effect; Intercropping; Relay cropping

Published in

Field Crops Research
2011, Volume: 120, number: 2, pages: 292-298