Suitable orchard floor management strategies in organic apple orchards that augment soil organic matter and maintain tree performance.

Neilsen, G.H., Forge, T.A., Angers, D.A., Neilsen, D., and Hogue, E.J. (2014). "Suitable orchard floor management strategies in organic apple orchards that augment soil organic matter and maintain tree performance.", Plant and Soil, 378(1-2), pp. 325-335. doi : 10.1007/s11104-014-2034-8  Access to full text

Abstract

Aims Organically-certified orchard floor management was assessed for its ability to improve soil fertility and biological activity and apple orchard performance. Methods ‘Ambrosia’/B9 apple was maintained for the first six growing seasons with four orchard floor treatments, including 1) annual compost application; 2) in-row application of mown alfalfa grown between the rows; 3) bark mulch plus in-row application of mown hay; and 4) black plastic mulch. Results Soil collected from 0 to 10 cm indicated high soil organic matter and exchangeable K were measurable for all treatments by the second year. After 6 years, highest organic matter, total-, particulate- and mineral–C were associated with soil beneath the bark mulch treatment which also had most vigorous trees, decreased leaf N and elevated leaf P and K. Addition of alfalfa and bark mulch were equally effective at maintaining high exchangeable K and soil phosphatase enzymes, high total and particulate-N by the fourth year. Conclusions Despite measurable improvements in soil properties among treatments, fruit yield and quality were minimally affected by management implying no limitations to adoption of any of the assessed strategies.

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