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Fragment size and diversity of mulches affect their decomposition, nutrient dynamics, and mycorrhizal root colonisation

Gaitanis, D., Lukac, M. ORCID: and Tibbett, M. ORCID: (2023) Fragment size and diversity of mulches affect their decomposition, nutrient dynamics, and mycorrhizal root colonisation. Scientific Reports, 13 (1). 9383. ISSN 2045-2322

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-36457-x


Plant-based mulch has been proposed as a sustainable way of maintaining soil fertility. However, the role of mulch diversity, quality, and size in decomposition dynamics, and their effect on crop yield, has not been fully explored. We investigated how mulch quality, proxied by the constituent plant species diversity, and residue size drive mulch decomposition, nutrient release, crop nutrition, and yield. A rhizotron experiment was set up with barley as a model crop, with the addition of mulch of two particle sizes (1.5 and 30 cm) and four different plant residue mixes of differing biodiversity (17, 12, 6, and 1 species) in a fully factorial design. Soil nutrient dynamics were measured at advanced decomposition stages, together with residue quality, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) root colonisation, and crop yield. Residue mass loss was significantly affected by its chemical composition. Initial NDF content was more restricted factor in C and N mineralisation than C:N or lignin. Long residues retained significantly higher C and N content, than short residues. Crop yield was not affected by residue type or size. Residue size significantly affected barley growth rate, influencing seed protein content. Soil available K was significantly increased by residues with a higher initial C:N ratio. Short residues resulted in higher soil Zn. Residues of higher diversity resulted inhigher AMF root colonisationof the barley plants. Generally, long residue mulches maintain higher fertilisation capacity at advanced stage of decomposition than short ones, without a deleterious effect on crop yield. Further investigation should evaluate the effect of continuous application of long residue mulches on soil fertility and microbial symbiosis.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Chemical Analysis Facility (CAF)
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:112293
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group


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