Dynamics of residue decomposition in the field in a dryland rotation under Mediterranean climate conditions in southern Spain
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With the aim of assessing the benefits of crop remains left on the soil surface, a study was carried out on the decomposition and characteristics of residue deposited on a clay soil in southern Spain during the agricultural seasons of 2001/02, 2002/03 and 2003/04, in which a legume-cereal-sunflower rotation was followed. Each of the residues studied possessed a characteristic justifying its inclusion in the rotation. The legume residue (Pisum sativum L. cv. Ideal) supplied the highest amount of nitrogen to the soil since, throughout its decomposition cycle, it lost 76.6% of its initial content in nitrogen, compared to the 48 and 56% of N released by wheat residues (Triticum durum L. cv. Amilcar) and sunflower (Helianthus annus L. cv. Sanbro), respectively. At the beginning of its decomposition cycle, the wheat residue had the lowest mass, and gave the most cover, with values of 65%, which was 8.6 and 20.2% more than the cover estimated for the pea and sunflower residues, respectively. The sunflower residue lasted longest, only losing 18% of its initial cover over 109 days of decomposition, compared to 47% for wheat and 53% for pea. The amount of carbon released was similar for the three residues and was around 500 kg ha−1. The straw decomposition rates under our conditions indicate that the residue of the most common crops in the area under dry farming makes protection possible during the intercrop period.