Early nitrogen supply as an alternative management for a cover crop-maize sequence under a no-till system

Letusa Momesso*, Carlos A.C. Crusciol, Rogério P. Soratto, Carlos A.C. Nascimento, Ciro A. Rosolem, Luiz G. Moretti, Eiko E. Kuramae, Heitor Cantarella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Optimizing agronomic efficiency (AE) of nitrogen (N) fertilizer use by crops and enhancing crop yields are challenges for tropical no-tillage systems since maintaining crop residues on the soil surface alters the nutrient supply to the system. Cover crops receiving N fertilizer can provide superior biomass, N cycling to the soil and plant residue mineralization. The aims of this study were to (i) investigate N application on forage cover crops or cover crop residues as a substitute for N sidedressing (conventional method) for maize and (ii) investigate the supply of mineral N in the soil and the rates of biomass decomposition and N release. The treatments comprised two species, i.e., palisade grass [Urochloa brizantha (Hochst. Ex A. Rich.) R.D. Webster] and ruzigrass [Urochloa ruziziensis (R. Germ. and C.M. Evrard) Crins], and four N applications: (i) control (no N application), (ii) on live cover crops 35 days before maize seeding (35 DBS), (iii) on cover crop residues 1 DBS, and (iv) conventional method (N sidedressing of maize). The maximum rates of biomass decomposition and N release were in palisade grass. The biomass of palisade grass and ruzigrass were 81 and 47% higher in N application at 35 DBS compared with control in ruzigrass (7 Mg ha−1), and N release followed the pattern observed of biomass in palisade and ruzigrass receiving N 35 DBS (249 and 189 kg N ha−1). Mineral N in the soil increased with N application regardless of cover crop species. Maize grain yields and AE were not affected when N was applied on palisade grass 35 DBS or 1 DBS (average 13 Mg ha−1 and 54 kg N kg−1 maize grain yield) compared to conventional method. However, N applied on ruzigrass 35 DBS decreased maize grain yields. Overall, N fertilizer can be applied on palisade grass 35 DBS or its residues 1 DBS as a substitute for conventional sidedressing application for maize.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Brachiaria spp
  • Cover crop
  • Food production
  • Nitrogen supply
  • Tropical agriculture
  • Zea mays


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