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Research Project: Strategies to Predict and Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Variability on Soil, Plant, Animal, and Environmental Interactions

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Production, nutrient cycling and soil compaction to grazing of grass companion cropping with corn and soybean

item Pariz, C - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Costa, C - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Crusciol, C. A. - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Meirelles, A - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Castilhos, A - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Andreotti, M - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Costa, N - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Martello, J - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Souza, D - Sao Paulo State University (UNESP)
item Franzluebbers, Alan

Submitted to: Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/22/2016
Publication Date: 5/1/2017
Citation: Pariz, C.M., Costa, C., Crusciol, C.C., Meirelles, A.M., Castilhos, A.M., Andreotti, M., Costa, N.R., Martello, J.M., Souza, D., Franzluebbers, A.J. 2017. Production, nutrient cycling and soil compaction to grazing of grass companion cropping with corn and soybean. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. 108:35-54.

Interpretive Summary: Evaluation of diverse cropping systems is needed to develop more sustainable production systems, particularly in warm-humid regions of the world. A USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientist in Raleigh, North Carolina collaborated with scientists at São Paulo State in Brazil to make evaluations of corn and soybean grown in monoculture or intercropped with common forage grasses in the tropical region of Brazil, palisade grass and guinea grass. Nitrogen fertilizer was applied at different rates at sidedress to determine optimum nutrient supply for these intercropped systems. Intercropping corn with palisade grass led to high grain yield and forage dry matter production. Ecological and economical responses were optimized with sufficient nitrogen input and intercropping of grain and forage. These results will be useful in designing more sustainable mixed-use grain and forage production systems in warm-humid regions throughout the world.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural management systems are needed to simultaneously enhance production, promote plant diversity, improve nutrient cycling and reduce soil compaction. We investigated the effects of intercropped forage grass on production of corn and soybean harvested for silage in the summer, as well as on production of subsequent forage and soil responses during three successive winter seasons on a clayey, kaolinitic, thermic Typic Haplorthox in Botucatu, São Paulo State, Brazil. Palisade grass was the introduced companion crop with corn (Years 1 and 2) and guinea grass was the introduced companion crop with soybean (Year 3), while signal grass was the residual weedy species in comparison. The third year was only a residual effect from the previous two years. We evaluated two corn silage cutting heights (0.20 and 0.45 m) and two cropping systems (with and without introduced forages). After corn silage harvest, pasture was grazed by lambs in winter/spring using a semi-feedlot system. The intercrop of palisade grass and silage cutting height did not affect corn leaf nutrient concentrations. When cut at 0.45 m compared with 0.20 m height, corn intercropped with palisade grass had greater agronomic characteristics, greater forage dry matter yield for grazing lambs, greater residue mulch produced, and greater quantity of N, P and K returned to soil. The residual effect of greater corn silage cutting height (0.45 m) intercropped with palisade grass on subsequent soybean silage intercropped with guinea grass resulted in greater N, P, K and Mg soybean leaf concentrations, agronomic characteristics and yield, and forage dry matter yield of pasture. At all soil depths evaluated, soil penetration resistance was lower in corn intercropped with palisade grass at 0.45 m silage cutting height and greater immediately after corn silage harvest than after grazing of forage by lambs. Greater soil organic matter, P, K and Mg concentration, and base saturation in the surface soil depth occurred at 0.45 m than at 0.20 m corn silage cutting height intercropped with palisade grass. Analyzing the system as a whole, harvesting corn silage crop with palisade grass intercrop at 0.45 m rather than at 0.20 m height was the most viable option in this integrated crop-livestock system.