Use of Cowpea to Manage Soil Phosphorus Accumulation from Poultry Litter Applications in a Cool-season Vegetable Rotation

in HortScience

Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata L. (Walp.)] cover crops were grown in a rotation with broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica Plenck.), spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.), and turnip greens [Brassica rape L. var. (DC.) Metzg. utilis] to evaluate the legume's ability to remove excess P from soils when poultry litter was used as a fertilizer. Fertilizer treatments were litter to meet each crop's recommended preplant N requirements (1X), litter at twice the recommended rate, and urea at the IX rate as the control. Following the vegetable crops, cowpeas were planted on half of each replication, while the other half was fallowed. The cowpeas were harvested for green-shell seeds and then underwent a simulated haying operation. Soil samples were taken at 0-to 15-cm and 15- to 30-cm depths at the onset of the study and after each crop to monitor plant nutrient levels. The cowpeas effectively lowered soil N levels but not soil P levels. However, there was no consistent evidence of an increase in soil P or K levels with litter applications. All three vegetable crops were successfully grown using poultry litter, although the 1X rate appeared inadequate for maximum production of broccoli and turnip greens.

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