Potential for using sunn hemp as a source of biomass and nitrogen for the piedmont and coastal plain regions of the southeastern usa
The tropical legume sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) could be a valuable green manure/cover crop for vegetable producers in the southeastern USA because of its rapid growth and large N2 fixing ability. Planting and termination date effects on biomass and N accumulation are relatively unknown for the region, but would help producers manage sunn hemp between summer and winter cash crops. We determined sunn hemp biomass and N content at 30, 60, 90, and 120 days after planting (DAP) for four planting dates (mid-April to mid-July) at a Piedmont and a Coastal Plain location in Georgia. Maximum biomass at a given DAP was produced from May and June plantings in the Piedmont and from April and May plantings in the Coastal Plains. Maximum biomass and N ranged from 8.9 to 13.0 Mg ha–1 and 135 to 285 kg ha–1, respectively. An equation for estimating sunn hemp biomass as a linear function of cumulative degree days (CDD) and cumulative solar radiation (CSR) was verified with independent data from Alabama, Florida, and Virginia. A similar equation for estimating N content as a quadratic function of CSR was not as accurate but still might be useful. Sunn hemp can fit well into short-rotation sustainable vegetable production systems in the Southeast, and these equations can be used by producers to make reliable estimates of sunn hemp biomass production.