Managing native and legume-fixed nitrogen in lowland rice-based cropping systems uri icon

abstract

  • Lowlands comprise 87% of the 145 M ha of world rice area. Lowland rice-based cropping systems are characterized by soil flooding during most of the rice growing season. Rainfall distribution, availability of irrigation water and prevailing temperatures determine when rice or other crops are grown. Nitrogen is the most required nutrient in lowland rice-based cropping systems. Reducing fertilizer N use in these cropping systems, while maintaining or enhancing crop output, is desirable from both environmental and economic perspectives. This may be possible by producing N on the land through legume biological nitrogen fixation (BNF), minimizing soil N losses, and by improved recycling of N through plant residues. At the end of a flooded rice crop, organic- and NH4-N dominate in the soil, with negligible amounts of NO3. Subsequent drying of the soil favors aerobic N transformations. Organic N mineralizes to NH4, which is rapidly nitrified into NO3. As a result, NO3 accumulates in soil during the aerobic phase. Recent evidence indicates that large amounts of accumulated soil NO3 may be lost from rice lowlands upon the flooding of aerobic soil for rice production. Plant uptake during the aerobic phase can conserve soil NO3 from potential loss. Legumes grown during the aerobic phase additionally capture atmospheric N through BNF. The length of the nonflooded season, water availability, soil properties, and prevailing temperatures determine when and where legumes are, or can be, grown. The amount of N derived by legumes through BNF depends on the interaction of microbial, plant, and environmental determinants. Suitable legumes for lowland rice soils are those that can deplete soil NO3 while deriving large amounts of N through BNF. Reducing soil N supply to the legume by suitable soil and crop management can increase BNF. Much of the N in legume biomass might be removed from the land in an economic crop produce. As biomass is removed, the likelihood of obtaining a positive soil N balance diminishes. Nonetheless, use of legumes rather than non-legumes is likely to contribute higher quantities of N to a subsequent rice crop. A whole-system approach to N management will be necessary to capture and effectively use soil and atmospheric sources of N in the lowland rice ecosystem.

publication date

  • 1992
  • 1992
  • 1992