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Comparison of soil quality and productivity at two sites differing in profile structure and topsoil properties

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This study sought to assess soil quality (SQ) of two soils with similar taxonomy but dissimilar soil profile attributes, and compare SQ outcomes with aboveground biomass productivity of three crops: dry pea (Pisum sativum L.), spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and maize (Zea mays L.). Soils evaluated included an alluvial-derived (AD) sandy loam and a glacial-till derived (GTD) loam/clay loam in central North Dakota. Application of the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) showed the soils had nearly identical SQ index (SQI) values for the 0 to 10 and 0 to 30 cm depths. Spring wheat seed yields on GTD soil in 2003 through 2005 ranged between 15 to 29% greater than on AD soil. Dry pea and maize forage yields were generally equivalent between soils, but 2004 maize yields on GTD soil following dry pea, spring wheat, and maize were 28%, 30%, and 54% lower, respectively, than on AD soil. Lower maize yields on GTD soil in 2004 were associated with greater soil water depletion, lower abundance of deep (>0.6 m) roots, and lower subsoil hydraulic conductivity compared to the AD soil. Although GTD soil had greater overall productivity than AD soil, their equality in SQI values indicates an increased relative improvement in SQ within the AD soils’ range of potential. Our results suggest the need for soil profile and subsoil information to be integrated with near-surface SQ assessments across agricultural landscapes.
Stephen D Merrill , Mark A Liebig , Donald L Tanaka , Joseph M Krupinsky , Jonathan D Hanson
USDA Scientist Submission
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2013 Oct. 1 v.179
Elsevier B.V.
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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