In this study, three types of cropping systems with different nutrient management strategies were studied on a clay soil with the aim of comparing leaching of N, P and K and obtaining knowledge on nutrient budgets. A conventional cropping system with cereals and application of mineral fertilizers (CON) was compared with two organic cropping systems, one without animal manure in which green manure crops were used for N supply (OGM) and one where animal manure (cattle slurry) was applied (OAM). Leaching and crop uptake of N, P and K, and soil mineral N were measured in pipe-drained plots over a 6-year period.
The mean annual leaching loads of N were moderate and did not differ significantly (P > 0.05) between treatments; 13 kg N ha−1 in CON, 11 kg N ha−1 in OGM and 7.4 kg N ha−1 in OAM. Average annual P leaching showed greater variation than N leaching and was significantly greater in OGM (0.81 kg ha−1 year−1) than in CON (0.36 kg ha−1) and OAM (0.41 kg ha−1). For all cropping systems, removal in harvested crops was the most important export of nutrients from the field and constituted between 80 and 94% of total N outputs (harvested and leached N). Yields of cereals in the organic systems were considerably less (15–50%) than in the CON system, leading to a less efficient use of N than in the conventional system.