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Title: Agricultural management practices impacted carbon and nutrient concentrations in soil aggregates, with minimal influence on aggregate stability and total carbon and nutrient stocks in contrasting soils
Contributor(s): Sarker, Jharna Rani  (author); Singh, Bhupinderpal Pal  (author); Cowie, Annette L  (author); Fang, Yunying (author); Collins, Damian (author); Badgery, Warwick (author); Dalal, Ram C (author)
Publication Date: 2018-05
DOI: 10.1016/j.still.2017.12.019
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Agricultural management practices can affect soil structure and soil organic carbon (SOC) and nutrient stocks, which are important for sustainable agriculture. There is however limited understanding of the long-term impact of management practices on SOC and total nitrogen (N), sulphur (S) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in aggregates from different soils, and consequent effects on SOC and nutrient storage in agro-ecosystems. Soils from long-term (16–46 years) management systems in semi-arid (Luvisol, at Condobolin, NSW), Mediterranean (Luvisol, at Merredin, WA) and sub-tropical (Vertisol, at Hermitage, QLD) environments in Australia were collected from 0 to 10 cm, 10 to 20 cm and 20 to 30 cm depths. Dry- and wet-sieving techniques were used to fractionate the soils into mega-aggregates (> 2 mm), macro-aggregates (2–0.25 mm), micro-aggregates (0.25–0.053 mm), and silt-plus-clay particles, including micro-structures (< 0.053 mm) i.e . "silt-plus-clay fractions". Management practices in the Luvisols comprised conventional (CT) and reduced tillage (RT) under mixed crop–pasture rotation, no-till (NT) under continuous cereal–cover crop rotation, and perennial pasture (PP) at Condobolin, and stubble either retained (SR) or burnt (SB) under direct-drilled continuous wheat–legume rotation at Merredin. The practices in the Vertisol comprised a factorial combination of CT, NT, SR, SB, with either 0 (0N) or 90 kg urea-N ha−1 (90N) under continuous wheat–wheat rotation.

In the Luvisol at Condobolin, the PP and NT had significantly (p < 0.05) higher soil aggregate stability than the CT and RT, with no impacts of management on SOC and total N, S and P stocks at all depths. The practices in the Luvisol at Merredin and Vertisol at Hermitage had no impact on soil aggregate stability, or on SOC and nutrient stocks at all depths, except the NT-SR-90N at Hermitage showed higher SOC (p < 0.10) and nutrient (p < 0.05) stocks than the other treatments at 0–10 cm only. The SOC and N concentrations were higher (p < 0.05) in the wet-sieved silt-plus-clay fractions and mega-aggregates than macro- and micro-aggregates in the PP and NT at Condobolin, and SR at Merredin, but were similar across aggregates in the CT and RT at Condobolin and SB at Merredin at 0–10 cm depth. Further, at Hermitage, SOC and N concentrations were similar among the aggregate-sizes across different treatments and depths. The only exception was the NT-SR-90N treatment, where SOC and N concentrations were higher (p < 0.05) in the silt-plus-clay fractions or microaggregates than in mega- and macro-aggregates, obtained by either dry- or wet-sieving. Total S concentration was in the order of macro- ≥ micro- > mega-aggregates across all the treatments and was higher in the PP at Condobolin (0–10 cm depth), and in the SR at Merredin (all soil depths) than the other corresponding treatments. Further, at Merredin, both SR and SB had higher P concentration in macro- and micro- than megaaggregates. Across all the practices, SOC and N concentrations were higher in the dry- and wet-sieved silt-plusclay fractions or micro- than mega- and macro-aggregates in both Luvisols, with no differences in the Vertisol. In summary, although the PP, NT, and SR (compared with other corresponding treatments at each site) had minimal impact on total SOC and nutrient stocks in bulk soils, these practices increased aggregate stability in some systems (i.e . Condobolin), and SOC and nutrient concentrations in the silt-plus-clay fractions or microaggregates in both Luvisols. These findings suggest that reducing soil disturbance and enhancing crop residue input in farming systems are important for SOC and nutrient storage, particularly in finer aggregate fractions.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Soil & Tillage Research, v.178, p. 209-223
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Place of Publication: The Netherlands
ISSN: 0167-1987
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: TBD
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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