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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 #413451

Research Project: Developing Strategies for Resilient and Sustainable Crop, Water, and Soil Management in Semi-Arid Environments

Location: Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research

Title: Conservative management practices and climatic variability interactions on soil biological health in semiarid regions

item Acosta-Martinez, Veronica
item Cotton, Jon
item Roper, Wayne
item SLAUGHTER, LINDSEY - Texas Tech University
item GHIMIRE, RAJAN - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Ecological Society of America (ESA)
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/4/2024
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Cotton producers in the Southern High Plains (SHP) transitioning to dryland management have adopted several alternative management practices including conservation tillage and cover cropping to improve soil health. However, semi-arid regions like the SHP have low soil organic matter (SOM) content (typically < 1%) and precipitation (< 450 mm), which limits biomass production and options for sustainable land management. We evaluated biological indicators of soil health such as different characteristics of the soil microbial community and labile pools of SOM that may better represent improvement in soil health for soils in water-limited regions with low SOM. Our measurements provide information on the microbial community size and composition via: ester linked-fatty acid methyl ester (EL-FAME) analysis, enzyme activities of nutrient cycling, and pools of SOM-like microbial biomass C, as permanganate oxidizable C (POXC) and soil organic C (SOC). Our study includes several cotton fields in the SHP representing early stages of transitioning to conservation management with reduced tillage and winter-wheat cover cropping compared to fields under conventional tillage cotton. Significant improvements in these soil biological health indicators were detected two years into transition for fields under no-till center pivot or no-till dryland management. Due to the extreme climatic variability experienced in the region, we continue our evaluation of these soil health indicators and the soil functions related to soil water, biogeochemical cycling, soil organic matter and productivity.