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Keywords:

  • Wheat;
  • white clover;
  • low input;
  • understorey;
  • soil N residues

Summary

In three field experiments carried out during 1989-91, a permanent sward of pure white clover (Trifolium repens) was established to provide a source of N for winter or spring wheat crops (Triticum vulgare) directly drilled into the legume. Spring-sown wheat failed to compete with the clover, but wheat sown in the autumn established successfully. N fertiliser was applied to all three experiments at rates of 0, 50 and 100 kg N ha“1 measurements of grain and whole-crop silage yields were made. Yields were low for all treatments, probably because of the dry conditions prevailing and the low soil N status of the site used. Yield responses to fertiliser were significant, despite the contribution to plant nutrition that the clover was intended to make. A key feature of the work was that the clover survived successive cereal crops and could be grazed and used as an understorey for later crops. Further, response to fertiliser N diminished with a successive crop implying a build-up of available soil N, which measurements confirmed had occurred. Use of the system obviated the need to use pesticides, although reasons for the lack of pest damage were not clear.