Cover cropping affects soil N2O and CO2 emissions differently depending on type of irrigation

  • Published source details Kallenbach C.M., Rolston D.E. & Horwath W.R. (2010) Cover cropping affects soil N2O and CO2 emissions differently depending on type of irrigation. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 137, 251-260.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Soil: Grow cover crops in arable fields

Action Link
Mediterranean Farmland
  1. Soil: Grow cover crops in arable fields

    A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 2006–2007 in an irrigated tomato field near Davis, California, USA, found more nitrate, higher greenhouse-gas emissions, and more carbon in soils with winter cover crops, compared to soils without cover crops. Organic matter: More carbon was found in soils with cover crops (maximum: 1.3% of soil was carbon), compared to those without cover crops (minimum: 1.1%). Nutrients: More nitrate was found in soils with cover crops, in five of seven comparisons (March–September: 20–70 vs 10–60 µg nitrate/g soil). Similar amounts of total nitrogen were found in soils with or without cover crops (0.1% of soil was nitrogen). Greenhouse gases: Higher nitrous oxide emissions were found in soils with cover crops, in two of four comparisons (80–150 vs 25–45 µg N2O/m2/hour), and higher carbon dioxide emissions were found in one of four comparisons (350 vs 215 mg CO2/m2/hour). Methods: Legume cover crops (Vicia villosa hairy vetch and Lathyrus hirsutus Australian winter peas) were grown on eight treatment plots, but not on eight control plots (0.075 ha plots). Cover crops were mown in late April, and mulched and incorporated into the soil in early May. All plots were irrigated and fertilized. Greenhouse gases were measured at least every 10 days in the growing season and every 2–3 weeks in the rainy season (three chambers/plot). Soil samples were collected every three weeks in the growing season, but less frequently in the rainy season (0–30 cm depth, 2.54 cm diameter soil cores).


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