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ARS Home » Plains Area » Temple, Texas » Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #378145

Research Project: Contributions of Climate, Soils, Species Diversity, and Management to Sustainable Crop, Grassland, and Livestock Production Systems

Location: Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Corn response to selected soil health indicators in a Texas drought

item Adhikari, Kabindra
item Smith, Douglas
item Collins, Harold
item Haney, Richard
item WOLFE, JUNE - Texas Agrilife Research

Submitted to: Ecological Indicators
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/31/2021
Publication Date: 2/13/2021
Citation: Adhikari, K., Smith, D.R., Collins, H.P., Haney, R.L., Wolfe, J. 2021. Corn response to selected soil health indicators in a Texas drought. Ecological Indicators. 125. Article 107482.

Interpretive Summary: Soil health corresponds to a condition of a soil in terms of its physical, chemical, and biological properties, and is related to crop performance and yield. However, spatial relationship between crop yield and soil health is limited in the literature. A study was conducted in Texas Blackland soils to assess soil health and corn yield relationship. Two-hundred and eighteen soil samples were collected from the field and soil health value was determined following Haney’s soil health tool. Continuous maps of soil health and corn yield were compiled, and the relationship was established. Results showed that there was a linear relationship between soil health and corn yield, and the relationship was influenced by soil types.

Technical Abstract: The phrase “soil health” describes the condition of a soil in terms of its physical, chemical, and biological properties. The main problem with this description is the limited information linking soil health to production. To explore the significance of soil health in crop production, field-based research was conducted in 2018 at the Blackland Research Center, Texas with the following objectives: (i) to quantify soil health indicators of the Haney Soil Health Tool across a corn field, (ii) to relate soil health status to drought-year corn yield, and (iii) to evaluate the relationship among soil health, corn yield, and soils types. We collected 218 samples from 0-30 cm soil depth in a 27-ha field following a 35 m x 35 m grid sampling scheme. Samples were analyzed for water extractable organic carbon (WEOC), total nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, ammoniacal-nitrogen, and 24-hr CO2 evolution (1-day CO2). Analyses results were used to calculate a soil health value. The field had an average soil health value of 8.5 (±2.2), and corn yield of 2.9 t ha-1 (±1.3); however, corn yield was more variable (CV >43%) than soil health (CV=26.7%). Overall, soil samples with lower values of 1-day CO2, WEOC, and organic nitrogen indicated a lower soil health value, which generally corresponding to lower corn yield. Corn yield may be weakly predicted by soil health (Corn yield = -0.29 + 0.39 × Soil health value, R2=0.28). Soil type and rainfall exhibited measurable effects upon the calculated soil health value; corn yields were greater for Houston Black clay than Austin silt clay under drought-year conditions. The variation in drought-year corn yield can be explained by the soil health and its indicators in Texas Blackland soils. Further research is necessary to verify the relationship in differing soil types, management scenarios, and annual rainfall totals.