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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Agricultural Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #323706

Research Project: Development of Ecologically-Sound Pest, Water and Soil Management Practices for Northern Great Plains Cropping Systems

Location: Agricultural Systems Research

Title: Can novel management practice improve soil and environmental quality and sustain crop yield simultaneously?

Author
item Sainju, Upendra

Submitted to: PLoS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/26/2016
Publication Date: 2/17/2016
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61899
Citation: Sainju, U.M. 2016. Can novel management practice improve soil and environmental quality and sustain crop yield simultaneously? PLoS One. 11(2): e0149005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149005.

Interpretive Summary: Traditional practices, such as conventional till with crop-fallow or continuous monocropping with N fertilization, have reduced soil carbon and nitrogen storage and crop yields due to residue incorporation into the soil, aggregate disruption, and absence of crops during fallow in the northern Great Plains. Traditional practices can also increase net greenhouse gas emissions compared with improved practices, such as no-till with crop rotation and reduced N rate. Although information on the effects of tillage, cropping systems, and N rates on soil carbon and nitrogen and crop yields in the northern Great Plains is available, little is known about novel management practices that can simultaneously enhance soil organic matter, reduce N rate, potential for N leaching, and GHG emissions, and sustain crop yields and quality in the northern Great Plains. This study compared improved and traditional practices that included combinations of tillage, cropping systems, and N rates on soil carbon and nitrogen, global warming potential, greenhouse gas intensity, and malt barley yield and quality under dryland and irrigated conditions from 2005 to 2011 in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. In both places, no-till barley-pea with N fertilization increased soil organic carbon and total N by 5-14%, but reduced residual soil nitrate-nitrogen, NO3-N, global warming potential, and greenhouse gas intensity by 24 to 79% compared with the traditional practices (conventional till continuous barley or barley-fallow with N fertilization). Barley yield and quality were similar between the two practices. Novel management practices, such as no-till barley-pea with reduced N fertilization rate, can simultaneously enhance soil and environmental quality and sustain crop yield compared with traditional practices in the northern Great Plains.

Technical Abstract: Little is known about management practices that can simultaneously improve soil and environmental quality and sustain crop yields. The effect of a combination of tillage, crop rotation, and N fertilization on soil C and N, global warming potential (GWP), greenhouse gas intensity (GHGI), and malt barley yield and quality were examined from 2005 to 2011 in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. In both places, no-till barley-pea with N fertilization (NTB-P/N) increased soil organic C (SOC) and total N (STN) by 5-14%, but reduced residual soil NO3-N, GWP, and GHGI by 24 to 79% compared with the traditional practices (conventional till continuous barley or barley-fallow with N fertilization). Barley yield and quality were similar between the two practices. Novel management practices, such as NTB-P/N, can simultaneously enhance soil and environmental quality and sustain crop yield compared with traditional practices in the northern Great Plains.