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Crop yield, weed infestation and soil fertility responses to contrasted ploughing intensity and manure additions in a Mediterranean organic crop rotation

Baldivieso-Freitas, P.; Blanco-Moreno, José Manuel; Armengot, Laura; Chamorro, Lourdes; Romanyà, Joan and Sans, F. Xavier (2018) Crop yield, weed infestation and soil fertility responses to contrasted ploughing intensity and manure additions in a Mediterranean organic crop rotation. Soil & Tillage Research, 180, pp. 10-20.

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Document available online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167198718300849


Conservation agriculture and organic farming are two alternative strategies that aim to improve soil quality and fertility in arable cropping systems through the deployment of different practices, that are rarely combined. While conservation agriculture practices include reducing tillage intensity and maintaining soil cover all year round to prevent soil erosion, organic farming focuses on nutrient recycling, using farmyard manure and green manure to enhance soil quality. However, these practices are not free from side-effects, such as increasing weed infestation or limited nutrient availability. Therefore it is necessary to explore the sustainability of their combination under local environmental constraints. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the effects of tillage type (mouldboard vs. chisel ploughing), fertilization and green manure on soil parameters (SOC, N, bulk density, carbon stocks, and soil microbial biomass Cmic and Nmic), weed abundance and crop yields in a four-year rotation of spelt, chickpea, winter wheat and lentil in the Mediterranean region (Catalonia, Spain). Tillage and green manure did not affect crop yields or weed biomass, although during the last year of the experiment, plots with mouldboard ploughing had less weed biomass and higher lentil biomass. Fertilization was the most important factor, increasing the cereal yields, SOC, N and soil microbial biomass (Cmic and Nmic) content of the soil. However, fertilization did not favour chickpea and lentil crops because weed competition limited legume crop growth. Overall, there was a loss of SOC and a reduction of carbon stocks over the four years of the trial in the soil because of the deep soil tillage (25 cm) and low crop productivity irrespective of tillage type. In contrast, N content increased in all of the plots and was enhanced by fertilization. The use of chisel plough stratified the distribution of SOC and N in the surface layers (0-10 cm). Both Cmic and Cmic/SOC ratio increased in fertilized treatments, suggesting an increased lability of SOC. The application of more stabilized organic matter may be a better practice to build up soil organic matter and to maintain crop yields in organic farming systems.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Subjects: Soil > Soil quality
Crop husbandry > Crop combinations and interactions
Soil > Soil quality > Soil biology
Crop husbandry > Production systems > Cereals, pulses and oilseeds
Crop husbandry > Composting and manuring
Crop husbandry > Soil tillage
Crop husbandry > Weed management
Research affiliation: European Union > CORE Organic Plus > FertilCrop
Spain > University of Barcelona
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil
Horizon Europe or H2020 Grant Agreement Number:618107
Deposited By: Blanco-Moreno, Mr Jose M.
ID Code:32378
Deposited On:02 Mar 2018 15:21
Last Modified:05 Jan 2021 15:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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