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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Orono, Maine » New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #378142

Research Project: Building Sustainable Cropping Systems for the Northeast

Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Potato cropping system management strategy impacts soil physical, chemical, and biological properties over time

Author
item Larkin, Robert - Bob
item GRIFFIN, T - Tufts University
item HONEYCUTT, C - Soil Health Institute
item OLANYA, O - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item HE, Z - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)

Submitted to: Soil and Tillage Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/12/2021
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Soil health is essential for agricultural sustainability and environmental quality, yet may be degraded by intensive cropping practices. Improved cropping systems (CS) can potentially maintain and/or enhance soil health. In this research, four different potato cropping systems, designed to address specific management goals of soil conservation (SC), soil improvement (SI), disease suppression (DS), and a status quo standard rotation control (SQ), were evaluated for their effects on soil physical, chemical, and biological properties associated with soil health. Results showed that cropping system significantly affected many properties associated with soil health. All rotations improved soil structure, water availability, and other physical properties, as well as total carbon and nitrogen and microbial biomass relative to no rotation (PP). The 3-yr rotations with reduced tillage (SI and SC) improved physical characteristics to the greatest degree. However, the SI system, which included yearly compost amendments, resulted in the greatest improvement in soil chemical nutrition, fertility, and biological properties than all other systems, with effects increasing over time and having lasting residual effects. This research demonstrated that cropping systems that incorporate management practices such as increased rotation length and the use of cover crops, green manures, reduced tillage, and, particularly, organic amendments, can improve soil health. This research is useful for scientists, extension personnel, growers, and consumers, providing information on the development of cropping systems that improve soil properties related to soil health, and thus enhance potato production and sustainability.

Technical Abstract: Soil health is essential for agricultural sustainability and environmental quality, yet may be degraded by intensive cropping practices. In this research, four different potato cropping systems designed to address specific management goals of soil conservation (SC), soil improvement (SI), disease suppression (DS), and a standard rotation (SQ) control, were evaluated for their effects on soil physical, chemical, and biological properties associated with soil health. SQ consisted of a standard 2-yr barley-potato rotation. SC featured an additional year of forage grass and reduced tillage (3-yr, barley/timothy-timothy-potato). SI added yearly compost amendments to the SC rotation, and DS featured crops with known disease-suppressive capability (3-yr, mustard/rapeseed-sudangrass/rye-potato). These systems were also compared to a non-rotation control (PP), and monitored over 9 field seasons. Cropping system significantly affected many soil properties, with effects generally increasing over time. All rotations increased aggregate stability, water availability, microbial biomass C, and total C and N relative to no rotation (PP), and 3-yr rotations with reduced tillage (SI and SC) also increased aggregate stability and water availability, and reduced bulk density relative to other systems. The SI system, which included yearly compost amendments, resulted in greater increases in total and particulate organic matter (POM) C and N, Active C, microbial biomass C, water availability, CEC, bulk density, and concentrations of P, K, Ca, Mg, and S than all other rotations. Cropping systems that incorporate management practices such as increased rotation length, cover crops, green manures, reduced tillage, and, particularly, organic amendments, can improve soil health.