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Short-term effects of cover cropping on the quality of a Typic Argiaquolls in Central Ohio

Mukherjee, A., Lal, R.
Catena 2015 v.131 pp. 125-129
Argiaquolls, Brassica rapa, Glycine max, Pisum sativum, agricultural soils, bulk density, cover crops, cropping systems, farming systems, field experimentation, grain yield, on-farm research, pH, peas, silty clay loam soils, soil organic carbon, soil properties, sowing, soybeans, turnips, Ohio
Quality of agricultural soils is influenced by different management practices. The purpose of conducting on-farm field research is to come up with fact-based answers to farming's challenging questions and this type of research targets “real world” data that are typically more variable than smaller fields used for small-plot/small-scale research. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the immediate (one year) impacts of pea (Pisum sativum) and turnip (Brassica rapa rapa) as cover crops on properties of a Kokomo silty clay loam soil (Fine, mixed, superactive, mesic Typic Argiaquolls) in Central Ohio under on-farm conditions. A range of soil parameters were tested for soil sampled from four depths (0–10, 10–20, 20–40 and 40–60cm) after the first season of cover cropping and before seeding of soybean (Glycine max) in 2013. Data indicate that only few soil parameters were significantly affected by the cover crop treatment. For 0–10cm depth, cover crops significantly decreased pH from 6.7 to 5.7 and increased soil organic C (SOC) concentrations from 2.3 to 2.5% (g100g−1). Although cover crops did not have any significant effects on other soil properties, however, there were trends of lower field dry bulk density (BD) and water stable aggregates (WSA) in 0–10cm depth under the cover cropping system (BD: 1.3Mgm−3, WSA: 72%) than those of control (BD: 1.5Mgm−3, WSA: 80% in 0–10cm), and similar observations were found for deeper soil layers. The lack of significant effects on other soil properties may be due to high field variability and short duration under cover cropping. Similarly, soybean grain yield was not significantly impacted by the treatment but yield was slightly higher under cover crop (4.6Mgha−1) than under control (4.3Mgha−1). These data suggest that some improvements in soil characteristics are likely even over a short period under an appropriate cover crop, however, longer-term data are needed to see whether or not these trends are transient.