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 Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

nachricht Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>