Influence of root zone nitrogen management and a summer catch crop on cucumber yield and soil mineral nitrogen dynamics in intensive production systems

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Nutrient and water management is crucially important in shallow-rooted vegetable production systems characterized by high input and high environmental risk. A 2-year field experiment on greenhouse cucumber double-cropping systems examined the effects of root zone nitrogen management and planting of sweet corn as a catch crop in the summer fallow period on cucumber yield and soil Nmin dynamics compared to conventional practices. Cucumber fruit yields were not significantly affected by root zone N management and catch crop planting despite a decrease in N fertilizer application of 53% compared to conventional N management. Soil Nmin content to a depth of 0.9 m decreased markedly and root zone (0–0.3 m) soil Nmin content was maintained at about 200 kg N ha−1. Root zone N management efficiently and directly reduced apparent N losses by 44% and 45% in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Sweet corn, the summer catch crop, depleted Nmin residue in the soil profile of 1.8 m at harvest of winter–spring season cucumber by 304–333 kg N ha−1, which contributed 19–22% reduction in N loss. Compared to conventional N management, N loss was reduced by 56% under root zone N management and catch crop planting.

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