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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Orono, Maine » New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #339586

Title: Incorporating soil health management practices into viable potato cropping systems

item Larkin, Robert - Bob

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/20/2017
Publication Date: 4/1/2017
Citation: Larkin, R.P. 2017. Incorporating soil health management practices into viable potato cropping systems. Northeast Potato Technology Forum Conspectus. 2017:46-47.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Soil health is critical to agricultural sustainability, environmental quality, and ecosystem function, but is generally degraded through intensive potato production. Soil and crop management practices beneficial to soil health, such as crop rotations, cover crops and green manures, organic amendments, and reduced tillage, can help maintain or improve soil health when incorporated into potato cropping systems, but needs to be done in ways that maintain economic viability for producers. In field trials established in 2013, different 3-yr potato cropping systems focused on specific management goals of soil conservation (SC), soil improvement (SI), and disease-suppression (DS) were evaluated and compared to a 2-yr standard rotation (SQ) and a non-rotation control (PP) for their effects on soil properties, tuber yield, soilborne diseases, and economic viability. SI system resulted in increased potato yield (by 31% vs. SQ), higher OM (by 51%) and other nutrient contents, and higher microbial activity (represented by microbial respiration-by 42%), relative to the SQ system. The DS system also increased yield (by 15%) and increased microbial activity (by 21%) relative to SQ, and reduced black scurf by 25% and common scab by 21% relative to PP. Soil microbial community characteristics, as represented by fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles were also distinctly different among the cropping systems. Overall, these systems provided comparable or increased net income relative to existing 3-yr rotations, but were not quite as profitable as a standard 2-yr rotation. These results indicate that soil health management practices can be incorporated into economically viable cropping systems that may enhance sustainability, productivity, and ecosystem function.