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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #381054

Research Project: GxExM Systems Approach to Crop Disease Management

Location: Soil Dynamics Research

Title: Evaluation of soil health under cover crop mixtures in southeastern row crop production systems

item CROWELL, HAYLEY - Auburn University
item GAMBLE, AUDREY - Auburn University
item Balkcom, Kipling

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/11/2020
Publication Date: 12/15/2020
Citation: Crowell, H., Gamble, A.V., Balkcom, K.S. 2020. Evaluation of soil health under cover crop mixtures in southeastern row crop production systems [abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Meeting.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The restoration of soil health is a crucial step to maximize productivity in the historically-eroded soils of the southeastern US. Utilization of cover crops can potentially improve soil health by increasing soil organic matter, improving soil structure, and enhancing nutrient-use efficiency. Studies were established in 2017 in the Tennessee Valley (TVREC) and Wiregrass (WREC) regions of Alabama to examine the impact of cover crops on dynamic soil health indicators. Eight treatments including winter fallow, along with monocultures and combinations of cereal rye (Secale cereale), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), and Daikon radish (Raphanus sativus) were arranged in a randomized complete block design. Winter cover crops were planted in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)-peanut rotation (Arachis hypogaea) at WREC and a cotton-soybean (Glycine max) rotation at TVREC. Soil health indicator measurements included permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC), total carbon (TC), water stable aggregates (WSA), and soil strength (AUCC.I.). Cover crops did not improve WSA compared to fallow at either location after two years of treatment. At TVREC, TC for the 0-15 cm depth and POXC for the 10-15 cm depth increased under crimson clover compared to winter fallow. Total C in the 0-15 cm depth was also increased following two years of rye-clover or rye-radish mixtures compared to fallow treatment. Neither TC nor POXC differed between treatments at WREC. No differences in AUCC.I. occurred between treatments in 2018 at both locations. In 2019, AUCC.I. at TVREC was higher under fallow and Daikon radish treatments compared to rye and rye-radish, while AUCC.I. at WREC in 2019 was higher under all clover-containing treatments compared to fallow and rye. Overall, some improvements in soil health indicators were observed following two years of cover crop utilization compared to fallow, but long-term cover crop use may be needed to observe more consistent changes in soil health.