Leaching of nitrate and ammonium from cover crop straws as affected by rainfall
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Nitrogen (N) mineralization dynamics in no-till systems is affected, among other factors, by N amount and quality in the mulch and by climatic conditions. Leaching of NO3-N and NH4-N from six plant species used as soil cover crops in tropical environments were evaluated when the straw was submitted to rainfall after chemical desiccation. Millet (Pennisetum glaucum), guinea sorghum (Sorghum vulgare), black oat (Avena strigosa), triticale (Triticum secale), Indian hemp (Crotalaria juncea), and brachiaria (Brachiaria decumbens) were grown in a greenhouse, in Botucatu-SP, Brazil. Forty-five days after emergence, the plants were cut at the root collar, oven-dried, and submitted to simulated rainfalls of 4.4, 8.7, 17.04, 34.9, and 69.8 mm, considering an amount of straw equivalent to 8 t ha(-1) of dry matter. The amounts of N-NO3- extracted from the straw by rainwater were very small. However, accumulated rainfall around 70 mm caused ammonium leaching ranging from 2.5 to 9.5kg ha(-1), depending on the species. Plant residues of triticale and black oat (grasses) and Indian hemp (legume) showed high N leaching intensity with the first rains after chemical desiccation. The amount of N leached from straw was highly correlated with N tissue content.