Limited influence of tillage management on organic matter fractions in the surface layer of silt soils under cereal-root crop rotations

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From: Australian Journal of Soil Research(Vol. 48, Issue 1)
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,163 words

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Abstract :

Reduced tillage (RT) management may increase surface soil organic carbon (SOC) and nitrogen (N), particularly due to accumulation of labile organic matter (OM). We investigated the effect of RT compared with conventional tillage (CT) on the distribution of SOC and N over different soil fractions from 7 pairs of fields with cereal-root crop rotations, in the Belgian loess belt. Surface soil samples (0-100 mm) were physically fractionated according to a sequential sieving and density separation method into stable microaggregates, silt and clay, and free and occluded particulate OM fractions. RT management was previously found effective in increasing the organic C and organic N content of the surface soil (0-100 mm) at these 7 sites. Here, physical fractionation showed that the difference in amount of organic C and N in free particulate OM (fPOM), intra-microaggregate particulate OM (iPOM), and silt and clay associated OM between the RT and CT soils contributed 34, 29, and 37% of the increase in SOC and 35, 32, and 33% of the increase in N. The contribution of OC and N in iPOM and fPOM increased significantly on a relative basis under RT management. Only a modest increase in iPOM and slight enhancement of microaggregation was observed in RT compared with CT soils. We suggest that the repeated disturbance of soil by harvest of root crops and repeated use of cultivators and harrows may limit the accumulation of physically protected POM under RT management of these Western European cereal-root crop rotations. Instead, most of the accumulated OC and N in the surface horizons under RT management is present as free unprotected POM, which could be prone to rapid loss after (temporary) abandonment of RT management. Additional keywords: soil organic matter, arable loess soil, conservation tillage, physical fractionation, long-term field experiment.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A222313803