Dynamics of soil extractable carbon and nitrogen under different cover crop residues
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- Zhou, X., Chen, C., Wu, H. et al. J Soils Sediments (2012) 12: 844. doi:10.1007/s11368-012-0515-z
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Cover crop residue is generally applied to improve soil quality and crop productivity. Improved understanding of dynamics of soil extractable organic carbon (EOC) and nitrogen (EON) under cover crops is useful for developing effective agronomic management and nitrogen (N) fertilization strategies.
Materials and methods
Dynamics of soil extractable inorganic and organic carbon (C) and N pools were investigated under six cover crop treatments, which included two legume crops (capello woolly pod vetch and field pea), three non-legume crops (wheat, Saia oat and Indian mustard), and a nil-crop control (CK) in southeastern Australia. Cover crops at anthesis were crimp-rolled onto the soil surface in October 2009. Soil and crop residue samples were taken over the periods October–December (2009) and March–May (2010), respectively, to examine remaining crop residue biomass, soil NH4+−N and NO3−–N as well as EOC and EON concentrations using extraction methods of 2 M KCl and hot water. Additionally, soil net N mineralization rates were measured for soil samples collected in May 2010.
Results and discussion
The CK treatment had the highest soil inorganic N (NH4+−N + NO3−–N) at the sampling time in December 2009 but decreased greatly with sampling time. The cover crop treatments had greater soil EOC and EON concentrations than the CK treatment. However, no significant differences in soil NH4+−N, NO3−–N, EOC, EON, and ratios of EOC to EON were found between the legume and non-legume cover crop treatments across the sampling times, which were supported by the similar results of soil net N mineralization rates among the treatments. Stepwise multiple regression analyses indicated that soil EOC in the hot water extracts was mainly affected by soil total C (R2 = 0.654, P < 0.001), while the crop residue biomass determined soil EON in the hot water extracts (R2 = 0.591, P < 0.001).
The cover crop treatments had lower loss of soil inorganic N compared with the CK treatment across the sampling times. The legume and non-legume cover crop treatments did not significantly differ in soil EOC and EON pools across the sampling times. In addition, the decomposition of cover crop residues had more influence on soil EON than the decomposition of soil organic matter (SOM), which indicated less N fertilization under cover crop residues. On the other hand, the decomposition of SOM exerted more influence on soil EOC across the sampling times among the treatments, implying different C and N cycling under cover crops.