Commonly N release from legume residues is rapid in the tropics. Legume mixtures with grasses can result in slower nutrient release from residues, better matching the N requirements of the following crop. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of the green manures sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea) and millet (Pennisetum glaucum), alone or mixed, on the performance of a subsequent maize crop with and without the application of N-fertilizer. The experiment consisted of four randomized blocks, with split plots. The plot treatments consisted of previous cultivation of sunnhemp, millet, mixed sunnhemp+millet and weeds. The subplot treatments were 90 kg N ha-1 and absence of N-fertilizer. Substantial amounts of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) nitrogen were present in above ground parts of sunnhemp alone (173 kg ha-1) and mixed with millet (89 kg ha-1). Decay rates showed that half of the N was released 15 and 22 days from sunnhemp and sunnhemp+millet residues, respectively. The difference was attributed to temporary immobilization due to the higher C/N ratio of sunnhemp+millet. The preceding sunnhemp+millet treatment resulted in a larger maize yield than sunnhemp alone, when no N-fertilizer was applied. This effect was not observed when N-fertilizer was added. This effect may be due to a more timely N release, compared to sunnhemp and millet alone, when available N is required for maize. Nitrogen budgets showed that 15% and 10% in maize grain N was recovered from BNF for sunnhemp alone and sunnhemp+millet respectively. The recovery of N-BNF by maize was 65% higher after sunnhemp+millet than after sunnhemp monocrop.
N recovery; biological nitrogen fixation; decomposition rate; intercropping