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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #369881

Research Project: Optimizing Water Use Efficiency for Environmentally Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems in Semi-Arid Regions

Location: Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research

Title: Soil microbial community response to long-term cover crop use in dryland systems of the central great plains

item MARTE DE JESUS, D - University Of Puerto Rico
item OBOUR, A - Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center-Hays
item SLAUGHTER, L - Texas Tech University
item Acosta-Martinez, Veronica
item HOLMAN, J - Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center-Hays
item VANDEVEER, M - Kansas State University Extension Center

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/21/2019
Publication Date: 11/11/2019
Citation: Marte De Jesus, D., Obour, A.K., Slaughter, L.C., Acosta Martinez, V., Holman, J., Vandeveer, M. 2019. Soil microbial community response to long-term cover crop use in dryland systems of the central great plains. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts. 1.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Conservation management strategies such as cover cropping are frequently used to improve the soil’s capacity to deliver critical ecosystem services such as supporting continued plant growth, known as soil health. These strategies are less used in the semi-arid Central Great Plains (CGP) region of the U.S., where producers are concerned that water use from cover crops can decrease subsequent cash crop yields. However, enhanced soil health and protection against erosion from cover crops use can potentially offset some of these risks by improving plant-soil-water relations. Because soil microbes are useful indicators of soil health and mediate many long-term changes to soil properties, we investigated the effects of dryland cover cropping on soil microbial communities. We used existing long-term (>10 years) field plots established at Kansas State University research facilities, where replicated treatments included a continuous wheat-grain sorghum-fallow (WSF) crop rotation, and five spring-planted treatments in place of fallow: 1) dry pea, 2) spring triticale, 3) oat and triticale mix, 4) oat, triticale, and pea mix, or 5) a mix of oat, triticale, pea, buckwheat, forage brassica and forage radish. These were further duplicated to be managed either as standing cover crops (CC) or harvested for forage crops (FC). Soil samples were collected from each plot in fall 2018 after wheat planting. We measured microbial biomass and community composition via ester-linked fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis, enzyme activities linked to C, N, and P cycling, total soil organic carbon (SOC), and different C pools such as microbial biomass carbon (MBC), soil organic matter (SOM), and particulate organic matter (POM). The results of this study provide evidence of the long-term potential benefits to soil health due to cover cropping strategies in dryland agricultural systems.