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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Great Plains Cropping System Studies for Soil Quality Assessment

Authors
item Varvel, Gary
item Riedell, Walter
item Deibert, E - AG AND AG FOOD CANADA
item Mcconkey, B - AG AND AG FOOD CANADA
item Tanaka, Donald
item Vigil, Merle
item Schwartz, Robert

Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2005
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Citation: Varvel, G.E., Riedell, W.E., Deibert, E., Mcconkey, B., Tanaka, D.L., Vigil, M.F., Schwartz, R.C. 2006. Great plains cropping system studies for soil quality assessment. Renewable Agriculture and Food System 21:3-14.

Interpretive Summary: Soils serve a multitude of functions and play an important role in environmental quality through interactions with the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. Long-term studies are usually required to compare management effects on the soil resource to make soil quality assessments. This requirement exists because of the effect annual variations in weather has on the system and also because we are often trying to detect changes in the value of large pools exhibiting spatial variability. In protocols established by the Great Plains Cropping System Network in 1998, sampling and testing procedures were selected to identify components or fractions of larger pools that are responsive to management that may serve as indicators of changes in the larger pool, which would be useful in assessing the effect management practices have on the soil resource. Eight existing long-term studies available in the region, their locations, and the selected conventional and alternative treatments selected for soil quality assessments are described in the paper. Precipitation, temperature, and yield data for each location are also presented.

Technical Abstract: Interactions between environmental conditions and management practices can significantly affect soil function. Soil quality assessments may improve our understanding of how soils interact with the hydrosphere and atmosphere. This information can then be used to develop management practices that improve the capacity of the soil to perform its various functions and help identify physical, chemical, and biological soil attributes to quantify the present state of a soil and detect changes resulting from management. In protocols established by the Great Plains Cropping System Network, sampling and testing procedures were selected to identify physical, chemical, and biological soil attributes responsive to management that may serve as useful indicators in assessing the effects of management on the soil resource. Eight existing long-term studies from throughout the Great Plains in the central USA were used to make these assessments because, 1) many years are required for certain soil properties to measurably change, 2) annual weather causes variation in system performance, and 3) the soil pools of interest are spatially variable. This paper includes detailed descriptions of the treatments and sites and both long-term and short-term (1999-2002) data on precipitation, temperature, and yields for each location.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014