Nitrogen Transfer from Cover Crop Residues to Onion Grown under Minimum Tillage in Southern Brazil

ABSTRACT Nitrogen derived from cover crop residues may contribute to the nutrition of onion grown under minimum tillage (MT) and cultivated in rotation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the N transferred from different cover crop residues to the onion crop cultivated under MT in southern Brazil. In June 2014, oilseed radish, black oat, and oilseed radish + black oat residues labeled with 15N were deposited on the soil surface before transplanting onions. During the growth season and at harvest, young expanded onion leaves, complete plants, and samples from different soil layers were collected and analyzed for recovery of 15N-labeled residue. Oilseed radish decomposed faster than other residues and 4 % of residue N was recovered in leaves and bulbs at harvest, but in general, N in plant organs was derived from sources other than the cover crop residues. In addition, leaf N was in the proper range for all treatments and was adequately mobilized to the bases for bulbing. The N derived from decomposing residues contributed little to onion development and the use of these plants should be chosen based on their advantages for physical and biological soil quality.