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Improvement of soil structure through organic crop management, conservation tillage and grass-clover ley


Loaiza Puerta, Viviana; Pujol Pereira, Engil I; Wittwer, Raphaël; van der Heijden, Marcel; Six, Johan (2018). Improvement of soil structure through organic crop management, conservation tillage and grass-clover ley. Soil and Tillage Research, 180:1-9.

Abstract

Conventional tillage is a widespread soil management practice that controls weeds and promotes nutrient mineralization at the expense of a degraded soil structure and soil carbon (C) loss. Although C dynamics and soil structure are widely recognized as pivotal to essential environmental and crop-related agroecosystem processes such as belowground C storage and crop root establishment, there is still a need to evaluate cropping practices most favorable for soil structure. For example, the effects on soil structure by continuous intensive tillage after a ley period remains unclear. To address these issues, we measured mean weight diameter, total C and total nitrogen (N) in whole soil and water-stable aggregate fractions after a 4-year arable crop rotation on a Cambisol where organic and conventional management was combined with intensive tillage and different types of conservation tillage. Measurements were repeated following a 2-year grass-clover ley period. Results showed that 4 years of organic management (including the application of cattle manure slurry) combined with reduced tillage significantly improved soil structure through increasing the proportion of large macroaggregates and hence the aggregate mean weight diameter (MWD) in the 0-6 cm soil layer. Although an increase in MWD after ley was observed in organic intensive tillage and a marginal increase in conventional intensive tillage, a significant increase in total C was observed only for the organic cropping systems, which also showed a high C stratification between 0-6 cm and 6-20 cm depth. Thus, a ley period enhances soil structure after continuous cropping under intensive tillage and when organic management is combined with reduced tillage. In conclusion, soil structure is best maintained when combining organic management with reduced tillage due to additive effects.

Abstract

Conventional tillage is a widespread soil management practice that controls weeds and promotes nutrient mineralization at the expense of a degraded soil structure and soil carbon (C) loss. Although C dynamics and soil structure are widely recognized as pivotal to essential environmental and crop-related agroecosystem processes such as belowground C storage and crop root establishment, there is still a need to evaluate cropping practices most favorable for soil structure. For example, the effects on soil structure by continuous intensive tillage after a ley period remains unclear. To address these issues, we measured mean weight diameter, total C and total nitrogen (N) in whole soil and water-stable aggregate fractions after a 4-year arable crop rotation on a Cambisol where organic and conventional management was combined with intensive tillage and different types of conservation tillage. Measurements were repeated following a 2-year grass-clover ley period. Results showed that 4 years of organic management (including the application of cattle manure slurry) combined with reduced tillage significantly improved soil structure through increasing the proportion of large macroaggregates and hence the aggregate mean weight diameter (MWD) in the 0-6 cm soil layer. Although an increase in MWD after ley was observed in organic intensive tillage and a marginal increase in conventional intensive tillage, a significant increase in total C was observed only for the organic cropping systems, which also showed a high C stratification between 0-6 cm and 6-20 cm depth. Thus, a ley period enhances soil structure after continuous cropping under intensive tillage and when organic management is combined with reduced tillage. In conclusion, soil structure is best maintained when combining organic management with reduced tillage due to additive effects.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Earth-Surface Processes, Agronomy and Crop Science, Soil Science
Language:English
Date:1 August 2018
Deposited On:08 Mar 2019 09:49
Last Modified:08 Mar 2019 09:49
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0167-1987
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2018.02.007

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Embargo till: 2019-08-01