Kura clover living mulch (KCLM) systems have the potential to provide ecosystem services in intensively managed cropping systems while supplying soil mineral nitrogen (N) to the growing cash crop. Living mulch management relies on strong spring suppression to reduce competition between vigorous kura clover and emerging row crop seedlings, but standard suppression management practices utilize widely different modes of action. The objective of this research was to gain insight into the impact of common KCLM management practices on early season N dynamics. Kura clover was mowed, and residue was either harvested or returned before rows were established via strip tillage or banded herbicide. Soil and gaseous N pools were monitored for 12 weeks post initial application of suppression management treatments. An enrichment factor (EF) approach was utilized to compare N pools under managed treatments relative to an unmanaged clover control. Strip tillage increased soil N by 300%, while banded herbicide row establishment increased soil N by 220% relative to the unmanaged control. Pre-plant clover harvest reduced short term soil NO3–N, but during later time intervals there was no relationship between residue management and soil N. We conclude that, for the dual goals of maintaining clover perenniality while providing greater soil N enrichment, strip tillage is superior to band herbicide for row establishment. Additionally, pre-plant clover harvest may open opportunities for dual harvests in a single growing season, increasing economic return while maintaining in-season N contributions from the living mulch.
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- Enrichment factor
- Kura clover
- Living mulch