No-tillage systems associated with intercropping practices of grains and forages as cover crops are increasing in the Cerrado agricultural areas. The aim of this study was to quantify the nitrogen (N) uptake efficiency of maize (Zea mays L.) grown as monoculture and intercropped with tropical forages under a no-tillage system by using the 15N isotope tracer in conjunction with measurements of soil microbial biomass N and available soil N. The experiment was conducted in the 2010–11 growing season, in a Dystrophic Red-Yellow Latosol (Typic Haplustox) in the Cerrado. The experiment was established in a complete randomised block design with three replicates with the following treatments: maize monoculture; maize intercropped with Panicum maximum Jacq. cv. Aruana; and maize intercropped with Brachiaria humidicola (Rendle) Schweick. Nitrogen was applied as ammonium sulfate at a rate of 100 kg ha–1 (30 kg N ha–1 was applied at planting and 70 kg N ha–1 as a side-dressing). The N-fertiliser uptake efficiency in maize and grain yield was not affected by the presence of the intercropped forages. The intercropped B. humidicola and P. maximum recovered 2.08% and 3.71% of the N fertiliser applied, respectively. The soil was the main N source for maize. Maize intercropped with P. maximum showed higher values of microbial biomass N and available N in the soil.
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Vol. 67 • No. 1