Efficient N management using winter oilseed rape. A review
Institute of Crop Science and Plant Breeding,
Christian-Albrechts-University, Hermann-Rodewald-Str. 9, 24118
* Corresponding author:
Accepted: 19 September 2009
During the last decades the acreage of winter oilseed rape has been increased considerably in Europe. Rapeseed can take up a large amount of nitrogen before winter (> 100 kg N/ha) and thus prevent nitrate leaching and pollution. Winter wheat is often grown subsequently, using oilseed rape as a favorable preceding crop. However, under wheat large nitrogen losses via leaching are frequently observed in humid climates during winter, mainly due to high amounts of soil mineral N available in fall and the small N uptake in fall of wheat as a subsequent crop. The low N offtake by the seeds results in a lower N-use efficiency and increases the N surpluses (>90 kg N/ha) compared with winter wheat (c. 40 kg N/ha). In addition, a large soil N pool increases the risk of N2O emission, with its impact on climate change. In our review we discuss several options to increase nitrogen-use efficiency in oilseed rape-based cropping systems ranging from optimizing N fertilization practices to options arising from adopted tillage practices and crop rotation. N application in fall normally increases dry matter accumulation and N uptake before winter. However, because of its limited yield effects in most situations, fall N supply also boosts N surpluses. N fertilization in spring exceeding the need of the crop for optimal seed yield increases the risk of N leaching and decreases the farmer’s net revenue. Considering the amount of N taken up by the canopy before the first spring application improves the determination of the optimal spring N supply. Measuring canopy N in fall gave the best results. At the cropping system level, time and intensity of soil tillage after the harvest of oilseed rape has concurrent goals of controlling volunteer rape, and achieving a successful establishment of the following crop, but avoiding an increased N mineralization. Changing the crop rotation by growing catch crops which prevent N from leaching is very effective in reducing N losses from the system by > 40%. However, the economic losses from growing a usually less profitable spring crop probably limit the acceptance by farmers. Despite the problems addressed above, looking at the whole cropping system, oilseed rape is indispensable because of its beneficial effects on yield levels and nitrogen-use efficiency of following cereals, especially wheat, because alternative crops are often not realistic alternatives.
Key words: oilseed rape / Brassica napus / N fertilization / N leaching / seed yield / N balance
© INRA, EDP Sciences, 2009