Long-term cropping system impact on quality and productivity of a Dark Brown Chernozem in southern Alberta.

Smith, E.G., Janzen, H.H., and Larney, F.J. (2015). "Long-term cropping system impact on quality and productivity of a Dark Brown Chernozem in southern Alberta.", Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 95(2), pp. 177-186. doi : 10.4141/CJSS-2014-104  Access to full text

Abstract

Long-term cropping system studies offer insights into soil management effects on agricultural sustainability. In 1995, a 6-yr bioassay study was superimposed on a long-term crop rotation study established in 1951 at Lethbridge, Alberta, to determine the impact of past cropping systems on soil quality, crop productivity, grain quality, and the relationship of yield productivity to soil quality. All plots from 13 long-term crop rotations were seeded to wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in a strip plot design [control, nitrogen (N) fertilizer]. Prior to seeding, soils were sampled to determine soil chemical properties. Total wheat production for the last 4 yr of the study was used as the measure of productivity. The 1995 soil analysis indicated crop rotations with less frequent fallow and with N input had higher soil quality, as indicated by soil organic carbon (SOC) and light fraction carbon (LF-C) and N (LF-N). SOC had a positive relationship to total wheat yield, but was largely masked by the application of N in this bioassay study. Frequent fallow in the previous crop rotation lowered productivity. The concentration of LF-C had a negative relationship, whereas LF-N had a positive relationship to total wheat yield, with and without N fertilization in this bioassay study. Grain N concentration was higher with applied N and when the long-term rotation included the addition of N by fertilizer, livestock manure, annual legume green manure or legume hay. This study determined that long-term imposition of management practices have lasting effects on soil quality and crop productivity.

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