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The role of cover crops in irrigated systems: water balance, nitrate leaching and soil mineral nitrogen accumulation
Gabriel Pérez, José Luis and Muñoz Carpena, Rafael and Quemada Saenz-Badillos, Miguel
The role of cover crops in irrigated systems: water balance, nitrate leaching and soil mineral nitrogen accumulation.
"Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment", v. 155
Soil salinity and salt leaching are a risk for sustainable agricultural production in many irrigated areas. This study was conducted over 3.5 years to determine how replacing the usual winter fallow with a cover crop (CC) affects soil salt accumulation and salt leaching in irrigated systems. Treatments studied during the period between summer crops were: barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), vetch (Vicia villosa L.) and fallow. Soil water content was monitored daily to a depth of 1.3 m and used with the numerical model WAVE to calculate drainage. Electrical conductivity (EC) was measured in soil solutions periodically, and in the soil saturated paste extracts before sowing CC and maize. Salt leaching was calculated multiplying drainage by total dissolved salts in the soil solution, and use to obtain a salt balance. Total salt leaching over the four winter fallow periods was 26 Mg ha−1, whereas less than 18 Mg ha−1 in the presence of a CC. Periods of salt gain occurred more often in the CC than in the fallow. By the end of the experiment, net salt losses occurred in all treatments, owing to occasional periods of heavy rainfall. The CC were more prone than the fallow to reduce soil salt accumulation during the early growth stages of the subsequent cash crop.
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