Carbon and nitrogen content of soil organic matter and microbial biomass under long-term crop rotation and tillage in Illinois, USA

Stacy M. Zuber, Gevan D. Behnke, Emerson D. Nafziger, Maria B. Villamil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Crop rotation and tillage alter soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics by influencing the soil environment and microbes carrying out C and N cycling. Our goal was to evaluate the effect of long-term crop rotation and tillage on the quantity of C and N stored in SOM and microbial biomass. Two experimental sites were used to evaluate four rotations—continuous corn (Zea mays L.) (CCC), corn-soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.) (CS), corn-soybean-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) (CSW), and continuous soybean (SSS), each split into chisel tillage (CT) and no-till (NT) subplots. The CSW rotation increased soil organic carbon (SOC) content compared to SSS; SSS also reduced total nitrogen (TN) compared to other rotations. Levels of SOC and TN were 7% and 9% greater under NT than CT, respectively. Rotation did not affect microbial biomass C and N (MBC, MBN) while tillage reduced only MBN at 10–20 cm compared to NT, likely related to dispersion of N fertilizers throughout the soil. Despite the apparent lack of sensitivity of microbial biomass, changes in SOC and TN illustrate the effects of rotation and tillage on SOM dynamics. The inclusion of crops with high C: N residues and no-till use both support higher C and N content in the top 20 cm of the soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalAgriculture (Switzerland)
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Keywords

  • No-till
  • Rotation
  • Soil biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science

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