Ryegrass cover crop effects on nitrate leaching in spring barley fertilized with 15NH415NO3

J Environ Qual. 2001 Sep-Oct;30(5):1659-67. doi: 10.2134/jeq2001.3051659x.


Cover crops are a management option to reduce NO3 leaching under cereal grain production. A 2-yr field lysimeter study was established in Uppsala, Sweden, to evaluate the effect of a perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cover crop interseeded in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) on NO3-N leaching and availability of N to the main crop. Barley and ryegrass or barley alone were seeded in mid-May 1992, in lysimeters (03-m diam. x 1.2-m depth) of an undisturbed, well-drained, sandy loam soil. Fertilizer N was applied at the same time as labeled l5NH415NO3 (10 atom % 15N) at a rate of 100 kg N ha(-1). In 1993, barley was reseeded in May in the lysimeters but with nonlabeled NH4NO3 and no cover crop (previous year's cover crop incorporated just prior to seeding). Barley yields and total and fertilizer N uptake in Year 1 (1992) were unaffected by cover crop. Total aboveground N uptake by the ryegrass was 28 kg ha(-1) at the time of incorporation the following spring. Recovery of fertilizer-derived N in May 1993 was about 100%; 53% in soil, 46% in barley, <2% in ryegrass, and negligible amounts in leachate. In May 1994, the corresponding figures were: 32% in soil, <3% in barley, and, again, negligible amounts in leachate. The cover crop reduced concentrations of NO3-N in the leachate considerably (<5 mg L(-1), compared with 10 to 18 mg L(-1) without cover crop) at most sampling times from November 1992 to April 1994, and reduced the total amount of NO3-N leached (22 compared with 8 kg ha(-1)).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Biological Availability
  • Climate
  • Fertilizers
  • Hordeum / chemistry*
  • Hordeum / growth & development
  • Lolium / chemistry*
  • Lolium / growth & development
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Nitrogen / pharmacokinetics*
  • Nitrogen Oxides / chemistry
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / chemistry
  • Seasons
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Soil Pollutants
  • nitrogen trioxide
  • Nitrogen