ABSTRACT A common crop rotation in the west Iran is wheat-fallow-corn. The fallow period after wheat harvest (during fall and winter) can lead to soil erosion, nutrient losses (e.g. nitrate leaching) and offsite movement of pesticides. This period is an ideal time to establish a cover crop. In order to investigate the effects of different autumn-seeded cover crops on subsequent irrigated corn response to nitrogen fertilizer, field studies were carried out during the 2007-2008 growing season at the Agricultural Research Farm, Razi University, Kermanshah, Iran. The experiment was conducted in a split plot arrangement based on a randomized complete block design with three replications. The main plots consisted of four cover crops including alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum L.), common vetch (Vicia sativa L.) and winter rye (Secale cereale L.) and a control (no cover crop). The sub plots consisted of two fertilizer N rates (0 and 250 kg ha-1). Cover crops were grown for nearly 5 months and then were incorporated into the soil as green manures. The results indicated that corn plant traits including seed yield, the number of seeds per ear and leaf chlorophyll content were significantly influenced by cover crops. Whereas, the cover crops had no signif-icant effects on the number of ears per plant, 100-seed weight and harvest index of corn. Among the cover crop species, common vetch produced higher dry weight and showed the highest positive effects on the corn plant traits. Dry weight produced by this cover crop was 56.41, 120.16 and 124.19% higher than those of winter rye, berseem clover and alfalfa, respectively. Common vetch enhanced seed yield, the number of seeds per ear and leaf chlorophyll content of corn by 46.30, 21.95 and 8.52%, respectively, compared to control. All of the corn traits under study, except the number of ears per plant and harvest index were significantly improved by nitrogen fertilizer. In general, this study revealed that the autumn-seeded cover crops, especially common vetch can be used to improve corn yield. However, the cover crops should be supplemented with nitrogen fertilizer to obtain optimal results.
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