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Obtaining more benefits from crop residues as soil amendments by application as chemically heterogeneous mixtures

Struijk, M., Whitmore, A. P., Mortimer, S. and Sizmur, T. (2020) Obtaining more benefits from crop residues as soil amendments by application as chemically heterogeneous mixtures. SOIL. ISSN 2199-398X (In Press)

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/soil-2020-9

Abstract/Summary

Crop residues are valuable soil amendments in terms of the carbon and other nutrients they contain, but incorporation of residues does not always translate into increases in nutrient availability, soil organic matter (SOM), soil structure, and overall soil fertility. Studies have demonstrated accelerated decomposition rates of chemically heterogeneous litter mixtures, compared to the decomposition of individual litters, in forest and grassland systems. Mixing high C:N ratio with low C:N ratio amendments may result in greater carbon use efficiency and non-additive benefits in soil properties. We hypothesised that non-additive benefits would accrue from mixtures of low-quality (straw or woodchips) and high-quality (vegetable-waste compost) residues applied before lettuce planting in a full-factorial field experiment. Properties indicative of soil structure and nutrient cycling were used to assess benefits from residue mixtures, including soil respiration, aggregate stability, bulk density, SOM, available and potentially mineralisable N, available P, K and Mg, and crop yield. Soil organic matter and mineral nitrogen levels were significantly and non-additively greater in the straw-compost mixture compared to individual residues, which mitigated the N immobilisation occurring with straw-only applications. Addition of compost significantly increased soil available N, K and Mg levels. Together, these observations suggest that greater nutrient availability improved the ability of decomposer organisms to degrade straw in the straw-compost mixture. We demonstrate that mixtures of crop residues can influence soil properties non-additively. Thus, greater benefits may be achieved by removing, mixing, and re-applying crop residues, than by simply returning them to the soils in situ.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:92439
Publisher:European Geosciences Union

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