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Effect of cover crop management on soil organic matter

Ding, Guangwei, Liu, Xiaobing, Herbert, Stephen, Novak, Jeffrey, Amarasiriwarden, Dula, Xing, Baoshan
Geoderma 2006 v.130 no.3-4 pp. 229
soil organic matter, chemical composition, humic substances, fulvic acids, cover crops, Vicia villosa, Secale cereale, nitrogen fertilizers, fertilizer application, application rate, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, New England region
Characterization of soil organic matter (SOM) is important for determining the overall quality of soils, and cover crop system may change SOM characteristics. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of cover crops on the chemical and structural composition of SOM. We isolated humic substances (HS) from soils with the following cover crop treatments: (a) vetch (Vicia Villosa Roth.)/rye (Sesale cereale L.), (b) rye alone, and (c) check (no cover crops) that were treated with various nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates. CPMAS-TOSS (cross-polarization magic-angle-spinning and total sideband suppression) 13C NMR results indicated that humic acids (HA) from soils under rye only were more aromatic and less aliphatic in character than the other two cover crop systems without fertilizer N treatment. Based on the DRIFT (diffuse reflectance Fourier transform infrared) spectra peak O/R ratios, the intensities of oxygen-containing functional groups to aliphatic and aromatic (referred to as recalcitrant) groups, the highest ratio was found in the HA from the vetch/rye system with fertilizer N. The lowest ratio occurred at the vetch/rye system without fertilizer N treatment. The O/R ratio of fulvic acids (FA) can be ranked as: vetch/rye without fertilizer>vetch/rye with fertilizer>no cover crop without fertilizer>rye alone (with or without fertilizer) soils. Both organic carbon (OC) and light fraction (LF) contents were higher in soils under cover crop treatments with and without fertilizer N than soils with no cover crop. These chemical and spectroscopic data show that cover crops had a profound influence on the SOM and LF characteristics.