Article

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 419-435

Alternative soil quality indices for evaluating the effect of intensive cropping, fertilisation and manuring for 31 years in the semi-arid soils of India

  • Reginald Ebhin MastoAffiliated withDivision of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Indian Agricultural Research InstituteEnvironmental Management Division, Central Fuel Research Institute Email author 
  • , Pramod K. ChhonkarAffiliated withDivision of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Indian Agricultural Research Institute
  • , Dhyan SinghAffiliated withDivision of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Indian Agricultural Research Institute
  • , Ashok K. PatraAffiliated withDivision of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, Indian Agricultural Research Institute

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Abstract

Soil quality assessment provides a tool for evaluating the sustainability of alternative soil management practices. Our objective was to develop the most sensitive soil quality index for evaluating fertilizer, farm yard manure (FYM), and crop management practices on a semiarid Inceptisol in India. Soil indicators and crop yield data from a long-term (31 years) fertilizer, manure, and crop rotation (maize, wheat, cowpea, pearl millet) study at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) near New Delhi were used. Plots receiving optimum NPK, super optimum NPK and optimum NPK + FYM had better values for all the parameters analyzed. Biological, chemical, and physical soil quality indicator data were transformed into scores (0 to 1) using both linear and non-linear scoring functions, and combined into soil quality indices using unscreened transformations, regression equation, or principal component analysis (PCA). Long-term application of optimum inorganic fertilizers (NPK) resulted in higher soil quality ratings for all methods, although the highest values were obtained for treatment, which included FYM. Correlations between wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) yield and the various soil quality indices showed the best relationship (highest r) between yield and a PCA-derived SQI. Differences in SQI values suggest that the control (no NPK, no manure) and N only treatments were degrading, while soils receiving animal manure (FYM) or super optimum NPK fertilizer had the best soil quality, respectively. Lower ratings associated with the N only and NP treatments suggest that one of the most common soil management practices in India may not be sustainable. A framework for soil quality assessment is proposed.

Keywords

Soil quality index Long-term fertilizer experiment Farm yard manure Scoring function Principal component analysis Regression model