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 Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

nachricht New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

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: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>