Advertisement

Plant and Soil

, Volume 423, Issue 1–2, pp 363–373 | Cite as

Direct effects of soil organic matter on productivity mirror those observed with organic amendments

  • Emily E. Oldfield
  • Stephen A. Wood
  • Mark A. Bradford
Regular Article

Abstract

Aims

Organic amendments to arable soil build soil organic matter (SOM), which can increase crop yields. However, organic amendments can influence crop yields independently of SOM by providing nutrients directly to plants. The relative importance of native organic matter versus organic amendments is not well quantified. We experimentally manipulated both organic amendments and native SOM concentrations to quantify their relative importance to crop yields.

Methods

We created OM concentration gradients by (1) diluting an organic-rich A-horizon with a mineral base and (2) amending compost to the same mineral base, generating OM concentrations for both treatments of approximately 2, 4 and 8%. We grew buckwheat and measured plant productivity and a range of soil fertility variables.

Results

Higher concentrations of OM, whether native or amended, were associated with higher soil water holding capacity and nutrients, and improved soil structure. Consequently, increases in both native and amended OM were associated with strong positive but saturating impacts on productivity, though amendment effects were greater.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that native SOM can support productivity levels comparable to those observed with organic amendments. Although our quantitative findings will likely vary for different soils and amendments, our results lend support to the idea that SOM stocks directly increase productivity.

Keywords

Crop productivity Crop yield Soil health Soil organic carbon Soil organic matter Soil quality Sustainable agriculture 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Jeremy Oldfield of the Yale Sustainable Food Program for helping to facilitate this research; and to Rachel McMonagle, Sanna O’Connor-Morberg, and Leehi Yona for lab assistance. This work was funded by a grant to EEO from the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.

Supplementary material

11104_2017_3513_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (DOCX 15 kb)

References

  1. Amundson R, Berhe AA, Hopmans JW et al (2015) Soil and human security in the 21st century. Science 348:1261071–1261071.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1261071 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Angers DA, Eriksen-Hamel NS (2008) Full-inversion tillage and organic carbon distribution in soil profiles: a meta-analysis. Soil Sci Soc Am J 72:1370–1374.  https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2007.0342 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker JM, Ochsner TE, Venterea RT, Griffis TJ (2007) Tillage and soil carbon sequestration—what do we really know? Agric Ecosyst Environ 118:1–5.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2006.05.014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bauer A, Black AL (1992) Organic carbon effects on available water capacity of three soil textural groups. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56:248–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhardwaj AK, Jasrotia P, Hamilton SK, Robertson GP (2011) Ecological management of intensively cropped agro-ecosystems improves soil quality with sustained productivity. Agric Ecosyst Environ 140:419–429.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2011.01.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradford MA, Schumacher HB, Catovsky S et al (2007) Impacts of invasive plant species on riparian plant assemblages: interactions with elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen deposition. Oecologia 152:791–803.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-007-0697-z CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bradford MA, Davies CA, Frey SD et al (2008) Thermal adaptation of soil microbial respiration to elevated temperature. Ecol Lett 11:1316–1327.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01251.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Brady NC, Weil RR (2007) The nature and properties of soils, 14th edn. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapin FS, Bloom AJ, Field CB, Waring RH (1987) Plant responses to multiple environmental factors. BioScience 37(1):49–57Google Scholar
  10. Clemmensen KE, Bahr A, Ovaskainen O et al (2013) Roots and associated fungi drive long-term carbon sequestration in boreal Forest. Science 339:1615–1618.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1231923 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Edmeades DC (2003) The long-term effects of manures and fertilisers on soil productivity and quality: a review. Nutr Cycl Agroecosys 66:165–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. FAO (2005) The importance of soil organic matter. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  13. Fierer N, Schimel JP (2003) A proposed mechanism for the pulse in carbon dioxide production commonly observed following the rapid rewetting of a dry soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 67:798–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fine AK, van Es HM, Schindelbeck RR (2017) Statistics, scoring functions, and regional analysis of a comprehensive soil health database. Soil Sci Soc Am J 81:589–513.  https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj2016.09.0286 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fortuna A, Harwood RR, Paul EA (2003) The effects of compost and crop rotations on carbon turnover and the particulate organic matter fraction. Soil Sci 168:434Google Scholar
  16. Grandy AS, Robertson GP (2007) Land-use intensity effects on soil organic carbon accumulation rates and mechanisms. Ecosystems 10:59–74.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-006-9010-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hatfield JL, Sauer TJ, Cruse RM (2017) Soil: the forgotten piece of the water, food, energy. Nexus Adv Agron 143:1–46.  https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.agron.2017.02.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Herrick JE (2000) Soil quality: an indicator of sustainable land management? Appl Soil Ecol 15:75–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hirose T, Werger MJA (1987) Maximizing daily canopy photosynthesis with respect to the leaf nitrogen allocation pattern in the canopy. Oecologia 72(4):520–526Google Scholar
  20. Janzen HH, Campbell CA, Brandt SA et al (1992) Light-fraction organic matter in soils from long-term crop rotations. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56:1799–1806.  https://doi.org/10.2136/sssaj1992.03615995005600060025x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnston AE, Poulton PR, Coleman K (2009) Soil organic matter: its importance in sustainable agriculture and carbon dioxide fluxes. Adv Agron 101:1–57.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2113(08)00801-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kline RB (2012) Assumptions in structural equation modeling. In: Hoyle R (ed) Handbook of structural equation modeling. Guilford Press, New York, pp 111–125Google Scholar
  23. Lehmann J, Kleber M (2015) The contentious nature of soil organic matter. Nature 528:60–68.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature16069 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Loveland P, Webb J (2003) Is there a critical level of organic matter in the agricultural soils of temperate regions: a review. Soil Till Res 70:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nelson DW, Sommers LE, Sparks D, Page A, Helmke P et al (1996) Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. Methods of soil analysis Part 3-chemical methods 961–1010Google Scholar
  26. NOAA National Centers for Environmental information, Climate at a glance: U.S. time series, precipitation, published February 2017, retrieved on March 7, 2017 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/
  27. NRCS (2012) Farming in the 21st century: a practical approach to improve soil health. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  28. Oldfield EE, Wood SA, Palm CA, Bradford MA (2015) How much SOM is needed for sustainable agriculture? Front Ecol Environ 13:527–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pittelkow CM, Liang X, Linquist BA et al (2014) Productivity limits and potentials of the principles of conservation agriculture. Nature 517:365–368.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13809 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Poorter H, Navas ML (2003) Plant growth and competition at elevated CO2: on winners, losers and functional groups. New Phytol 157:175–198.  https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1469-8137.2003.00680.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Powlson DS, Stirling CM, Jat ML et al (2014) Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation. Nature Clim Change 4:678–683.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2292 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rasmussen PE, Goulding K, Brown JR et al (1998) Agroecosystem - long-term agroecosystem experiments: assessing agricultural sustainability and global change. Science 282:893–896CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Reeves DW (1997) The role of soil organic matter in maintaining soil quality in continuous cropping systems. Soil Till Res 43:131–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Robertson GP, Gross KL, Hamilton SK et al (2014) Farming for ecosystem services: an ecological approach to production agriculture. Bioscience 64:404–415.  https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu037 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Romig DE, Garlynd MJ, Harris RF, McSweeney K (1995) How farmers assess soil health and quality. J Soil Water Conserv 50:229–236Google Scholar
  36. Schmidt MWI, Torn MS, Abiven S et al (2011) Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property. Nature 478:49–56.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10386 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Soil Survey Staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Web soil survey. Available online at https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/. Accessed October 2016
  38. Wander MM (2004) Soil organic matter fractions and their relevance to soil function. In: Magdoff F, Weil R (eds) Advances in agroecology. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 67–102Google Scholar
  39. Williams A, Hedlund K (2013) Indicators of soil ecosystem services in conventional and organic arable fields along a gradient of landscape heterogeneity in southern Sweden. Appl Soil Ecol 65:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily E. Oldfield
    • 1
  • Stephen A. Wood
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mark A. Bradford
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.The Nature ConservancyArlingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations