Effects of tillage, inorganic N, and winter cover crops on sweet corn (Zea mays) were examined in 1994, 1995, and 1996. Tillage treatments were tillage or no tillage, and N treatments were the addition of inorganic N at 0 (N0) or 200 (N+) kg·ha-1 (0 or 179 lb/acre). Winter cover crops included hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), winter rye (Secale cereale), and a vetch/rye biculture. In the N0, rye treatment, the soil was N deficient in 1994 and highly N deficient in 1995 and 1996. When vetch shoot N content was ≥150 kg·ha-1 (134 lb/acre) (1994 and 1995), addition of inorganic N did not increase corn yields, and it only increased corn foliar N concentrations by 8%. Reductions in corn yields (29%) and foliar N concentrations (24%) occurred when vetch shoot N content was only 120 kg·ha-1 (107 lb/acre) (1996) and inorganic N was not supplied. In 1994, the vetch/rye biculture supplied sufficient N for maximum corn yields, but addition of inorganic N increased yields by more than 50% in 1995 and 1996. Under tilled conditions, the vetch N contribution to corn appeared to equal (1996) or exceed (1994 and 1995) 82 kg·ha-1 (73 lb/acre) of N supplied as ammonium nitrate, whereas a mean value of 30 kg·ha-1 (27 lb/acre) was obtained for the biculture cover crop (1995 and 1996). No significant effects of tillage on sweet corn population densities were detected following vetch, but no-tillage significantly reduced corn population densities following rye (17%) or biculture (35%) cover crops compared to tillage. No-tillage did not reduce yields from emerged seedlings (per plant basis) for any cover crops. Vetch appeared to be a satisfactory N source for sweet corn when vetch N content was ≥150 kg·ha-1, and it could be used with no-tillage without yield reductions.
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