Cover crops affecting levels of ammonium and nitrate in the soil and upland rice development
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The use of cover crops in no-tillage systems (NTS) increases the levels of organic matter and could increase the nitrogen content of the soil, contributing to reduce fertilizers costs. The knowledge of these processes is fundamental for deciding whether cover crops can be effectively incorporated into the agricultural production system. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of cover crop species on the levels of nitrate and ammonium in the soil in early upland rice development, as well upland rice yield. A field experiment was performed and treatments consisted of growing rice on five cover crops (Panicum maximum, Brachiaria ruziziensis, Brachiaria brizantha, millet and fallow) in an NTS and two control treatments (Brachiaria brizantha and fallow) under a conventional tillage system, CTS, (one plowing and two disking). The experimental design was a complete randomized block with three replications. The soil samples were collected during a period of six weeks (0, 7, 14, 21, 28 and 35 days in relation to upland rice sowing). The cover crops Brachiaria brizantha, Panicum maximum and Brachiaria ruziziensis in the NTS and B. brizantha fallow incorporated into the CTS favored higher levels of nitrate in the soil. In contrast, B. brizantha and fallow in the CTS and millet and P. maximum in the NTS favored the buildup of high levels of ammonium in the soil. The treatments under the plowed cover crops millet and fallow allowed for a higher upland rice yield. The tillage system and nature of the cover crops could be used to achieve the desired levels and forms of nitrogen in soil.