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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #379355

Research Project: GxExM Systems Approach to Crop Disease Management

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Effect of tillage and irrigation on southeastern U.S. soils under cellulosic sorghum feedstock production

Author
item ROCATELI, ALEXANDRE - Oklahoma State University
item RAPER, RANDY - Oklahoma State University
item ARRIAGA, FRANCISCO - University Of Wisconsin
item Balkcom, Kipling

Submitted to: Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/24/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Sorghum may be a good cellulosic material for bioenergy production because it can be cultivated in current row-crop systems. However, the production of sorghum for bioenergy and its impacts on Southeastern U.S. soils should be investigated to determine the most environmentally sustainable system. Scientists currently at Oklahoma State Univ and Univ. of Wisconsin in conjunction with USDA in Auburn, AL evaluated tillage (conventional vs. conservation systems), and irrigation effects (irrigated vs. non-irrigated) on soil characteristics when producing cellulosic feedstock from three forage sorghums and one forage corn (control) in 2008 and 2009. Soil organic carbon (SOC) increased at a depth of 0.10–0.15 m, but decreased at a depth of 0.40–0.45 m with higher losses being found using conventional tillage as opposed to conservation tillage. Total nitrogen (TN) and bulk density (Bd) increased at all evaluated soil depths (0–0.50 m) after 2 years. Conventional tillage plots also showed higher Bd at 0.15–0.30 m. Higher Bd in conventional tillage plots might restrict water drainage which could explain higher volumetric soil water content (SWC) at 0.10, 0.20 and 0.40 m soil depths. Results suggest that the amount of sorghum cellulosic feedstock harvested must be restrained, allowing biofuel production without jeopardizing soil and environmental quality. Further research must be developed to elucidate the appropriate harvestable amounts of sorghum cellulosic feedstock without causing negative impacts in agricultural soils.

Technical Abstract: Sorghum may be a good cellulosic material for bioenergy production because it can be cultivated in current row-crop systems. However, the production of sorghum for bioenergy and its impacts on Southeastern U.S. soils should be investigated to determine the most environmentally sustainable system. The objective of this study was to evaluate tillage (conventional vs. conservation systems), and irrigation effect (irrigated vs. non-irrigated) on soil characteristics when producing cellulosic feedstock from three forage sorghums and one forage corn (control) in 2008 and 2009. Results showed that soil organic carbon (SOC) increased at a depth of 0.10–0.15 m, but decreased at a depth of 0.40–0.45 m with higher losses being found using conventional tillage as opposed to conservation tillage. Total nitrogen (TN) and bulk density (Bd) increased at all evaluated soil depths (0–0.50 m) after 2 years. Conventional tillage plots also showed higher Bd at 0.15–0.30 m. Higher Bd in conventional tillage plots might restrict water drainage which could explain higher volumetric soil water content (SWC) at 0.10, 0.20 and 0.40 m soil depths. Cone Index (CI) values also showed improved soil conditions at in-row positions for conservation plots.