Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can Simple Measures of Labile Soil Organic Matter Predict Corn Performance?

13.02.2013
Organic matter is important for soil health and crop productivity. While an indicator of soil quality, a lot of organic matter is in extremely stable forms, and the nutrients in such forms are difficult for plants to use. The active, labile fraction, however, is a modest but important part of the organic matter.

“The labile fraction is small – usually less than 20 or even 10 percent, depending on how you define it,” explains Steve Culman, lead author of a study published online Feb. 8 in Agronomy Journal. “But it is where a lot of the action happens. It’s where soil nutrients are rapidly cycled and are interacting with microbial communities.”

The size of the labile pool, then, can be an important predictor of corn agronomic performance. But the tests used up to this point to measure those pools, such as microbial biomass and particulate organic matter, were labor intensive and expensive. Culman, in Sieg Snapp’s lab at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, decided to use other measurements of the labile fractions – including nitrogen mineralization and carbon mineralization – to see what information these inexpensive tests might give them. Their results suggest that simple measures of labile organic matter can reflect long-term management and short-term seasonal changes as well as predict corn performance.

To better understand labile soil organic measurements and what they could tell farmers, the researchers measured soils managed in a variety of conditions. Fields were maintained with three different management practices (conventional, integrated, and compost) and two different crop rotations (continuous corn with no cover crops and corn-soybean-wheat with cover crops). After collecting soil from the different fields, the scientists then measured carbon and nitrogen mineralization.

“What’s nice about carbon and nitrogen mineralization is they’re based on actual biological activity,” says Culman. “You take into account the soil microbes and environment for these tests.”

A long-term cropping system trial provided the perfect opportunity to test the extent to which carbon and nitrogen mineralization measurements were affected by both management practice and crop rotation. These tests, then, could be used to identify the best practices, such as fertilizer application, for a given field. This would be especially useful for nitrogen – a nutrient that is incredibly important for crop growth but is rarely measured by farmers.

“Most farmers don’t test their soils for nitrogen,” explains Culman. “They just basically apply a rate based on their yield goals, and excess nitrogen may be applied. The long-term goal would be to offer these as predictive tests for farmers so they can say, ‘Given my soil type, management, and these measures, I should apply this amount of nitrogen.’ That’s the ultimate goal.”

The predictive power of such tests for best management practices goes hand-in-hand with crop performance. The researchers also found that carbon mineralization was a better predictor of corn agronomic performance than other measures that are currently used (pre-sidress nitrate test and leaf chlorophyll). With these tests, Culman and his coauthors hope to provide farmers with better tools to manage their fields and increase crop yields.

Says Culman, “This could have tremendous impacts, locally, regionally, and nationally, in terms of having tools that better predict our cropping system performance based on soil properties.”

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/aj/abstracts/0/0/agronj2012.0382.

A peer-reviewed international journal of agriculture and natural resource sciences, Agronomy Journal is published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy, with articles relating to original research in soil science, crop science, agroclimatology and agronomic modeling, production agriculture, and software. For more information visit: www.agronomy.org/publications/aj

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) www.agronomy.org, is a scientific society helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Caroline Schneider | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.sciencesocieties.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Faba fix for corn's nitrogen need
11.04.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Wheat research discovery yields genetic secrets that could shape future crops
09.04.2018 | John Innes Centre

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>