Cover crop effects on the fate of N in sweet maize (Zea mays L. saccharata Sturt.) production in a semiarid region

Document Type: Research Paper


1 University of Belgrade, Faculty of Agriculture, Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops, Nemanjina 6, 11080 Belgrade, Serbia.

2 Maize Research Institute, Slobodana Bajica 1, 11185, Belgrade, Serbia.

3 Center for food analysis, d.o.o., Belgrade.


This research aimed to determine the effects of different cover crops and application of
bio-fertilizer on dynamic of nitrogen in the soil and sweet maize yield. Also, we evaluated the
effect of fall–winter species (common vetch, field pea, winter oats, fodder kale) and a mixture
of vetch and field pea with oats used as cover crops, as such as dead organic mulch and
traditional variant, without coverage on biomass, chlorophyll and protein content in leaves and
grain of main crop. Biomass production and N uptake by cover crops ranged from 4.25 to 90.20
kg ha-1 and from 0.34 to 133.80 kg ha-1 N, respectively, depending on cover crop type. At
harvest soil nitrate content in treatments with cover crops was 50-90% lower than in the control,
reducing spring N leaching risk. Residual mineral N significantly increased with application of
microbiological fertilizer. The chlorophyll content of the main crop was significantly lower in
treatments without cover crops. Consequently, sweet maize yield was the highest in fodder kale
and field pea (7263.83 and 7177.27 kg ha-1) treatments, but the smallest in winter oat and
common vetch (6802.47 and 6184.14 kg ha-1). In terms of all investigated traits, particularly
grain yield, cover crops and microbiological fertilizer expressed more efficiency in the dry year.
It could be concluded that N content should be controlled effectively by sowing main crops after
planting of cover crops in biological farming systems in a semiarid region.