An experiment was conducted near Ithaca, New York, to compare orchard soil and groundcover management systems (GMSs) in a silty clay loam soil (mixed, mesic, Glosaquic Hapludalf). Three replications of four GMS treatments were randomly assigned to 12 plots and maintained since 1992 in 2 m-wide strips within tree rows: (1) Sod: Red fescue (Festuca rubra) turfgrass mowed biweekly; (2) Post-HBS: Post-emergence applications of glyphosate herbicide in May and July annually; (3) Pre-HBS: Pre-emergence applications of paraquat, diuron and norflurazon herbicides each May; and (4) Mulch: A 15-cm depth layer of shredded hardwood bark mulch, renewed triennially. After eight years of continuous treatments, we compared soil physical conditions and hydraulic properties in these GMSs. Bulk density was lower and soil porosity greater under Mulch than other GMSs. Infiltration was more rapid under Mulch than other GMSs, and under Post-HBS than Sod. Saturated hydraulic conductivity ranged from 6 × 10−4 m.s−1under Sod to 12 × 10−4 m.s−1 under Mulch plots, and was equivalent in Sod and Pre-HBS, lower in Sod than Post-HBS or Mulch treatments, higher in Post-HBS than Pre-HBS, and higher in Mulch than all other GMSs. Volumetric soil water content at field capacity ranged from 0.47 under Mulch to 0.40 under Sod, and was not significantly different among GMSs between 0.99 and 39.22 kPa of pressure. GMS treatments and related management practices at this orchard had substantially different long-term effects on soil physical conditions. Compaction and reduced infiltration in Sod compared with other GMSs were attributed to tractor wheel traffic during mowing. Mulch treatments improved soil conditions relative to other GMSs. Greater infiltration rates and hydraulic conductivity under Post-HBS compared with Pre-HBS suggest relative advantages of post-emergence herbicides.
groundcover management systems orchard soil physical conditions