In situ validation of fungal N translocation to cereal rye mulches under no-till soybean production

M. Scott Wells, S. Chris Reberg-Horton, Steven B. Mirsky, Jude E. Maul, Shuijin Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background and aims: The ability of grass mulches to inhibit weed performance has been linked to their limitations on nitrogen availability to the weeds. Fungal translocation of N from the soil to the surface mulch has been confirmed in laboratories, but this mechanism has not been documented under field conditions. Methods: Experiments used 15N (NH4)2SO4 , 99.7 at.%, which was uniformly injected below the soil surface at a rate of 1 mg 15 N kg−1 soil. Some plots were treated with a fungicide (Captan) every 2 weeks after injection, while others were not treated. Nitrogen transfer was monitored by measuring levels in surface residue, soybean tissue, and extractable soil inorganic N pools. Results: Despite the N release from the cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) tissues ranging from 15 to 50 kg N ha−1, there was a detectable increase in 15N enrichment of 10–15 % in the cereal rye tissue. Six weeks after injection, tissue from the plots not treated with fungicide contained 36 % more 15 N. Conclusions: The increased 15N enrichment in the cereal rye mulch supports laboratory observations that soil inorganic N is translocated into surface mulch via fungal mechanisms. These findings illustrate microbial-mediated sinks for nitrogen in cereal rye mulches in no-till soybean production systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-165
Number of pages13
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Cover crop mulch
  • Fungal N translocation
  • N immobilization
  • N stable isotope
  • Plant-microbial N competition
  • Secale cereale L
  • Weed suppression


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