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Predictors of short-term nitrogen availability in organic farming systems that utilize warm season cover crops

O'Connell, S.. 2013. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, USDA

Abstract

Both plant tissue quality and environmental conditions appeared to effect short-term N mineralization. All warm-season cover crops evaluated (C:N from 15-57:1) had net N mineralization during an incubation study. Legume-dominated crops had greater potential than grass cover crops. The incorporation of cover crop residues stimulated an increase of soil microbial biomass nitrogen as well as cellulase enzyme activity. The conservation of inorganic soil N in soils that supported cover crops compared to bare-ground controls was indicated. Selected cover crop residue qualities and the free, particulate organic matter (F-POM) C:N ratio were able to distinguish between legume-dominated and grass cover crops.