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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #252077

Title: Long-Term Cropping System Effects on Soil Properties and on a Soil Quality Index

item Jokela, William
item Posner, Joshua
item Hedtcke, Janet

Submitted to: Scientific and Technical Review
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/10/2010
Publication Date: 6/18/2010
Publication URL:
Citation: Jokela, W.E., Posner, J.L., Hedke, J.L. 2010. Long-Term Cropping System Effects on Soil Properties and on a Soil Quality Index. The Wiconsin Integrated Cropping System Trial Techinical Annual Report. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Intensive row-crop production can lead to soil degradation over time if insufficient biomass return, intensive tillage, or excessive erosion lead to depletion of soil organic C. Soil quality may be improved by incorporating forage crops or grazing into the rotation, adding manure or other organic sources, and shifting to minimum tillage. We evaluated a range of physical, chemical, and microbial soil properties from six cropping systems in the WI Integrated Cropping Systems Trial after 18 years of continuous treatments. We sampled soils (0-5-cm and 5-20-cm depths) from five individual crop years following the corn year of rotation (continuous corn (C), C-soybean (SB), organic grain (C-SB-wheat/red clover), alfalfa-corn (Alf-Alf-Alf-C), and organic dairy (C-oats/pea/Alf-Alf); two following alfalfa (Alf-C-C-C) and organic dairy; and one in rotationally grazed grass-legume pasture. Extractable P and K, pH, total organic C (TOC), total N (TN), active soil C, potentially mineralizable N (PMN), water-stable aggregates (WSA), bulk density (BD), penetrometer resistance, and microbial biomass/diversity were measured, and the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF) soil quality index (SQI) was determined. Cropping system treatments significantly affected all soil properties in the 0-5-cm soil depth and most in the 5-20-cm depth. The pasture treatment (0-5 cm) had the highest microbial biomass, TOC, TN, active C, PMN, and WSA. Active C and PMN were related to total C and N but were more sensitive to treatment. Forage phases had higher BD (0-5 cm) and penetrometer resistance than corn. Soil test P reflected net balance to the systems. Overall soil quality, as measured by SMAF soil quality index, was higher in the surface layer, and there was a trend (0-20 cm) to higher SQI in most forage based systems.