Long-term Field Bioassay of Soil Quality.
A field bioassay of soil quality was established in 1990 at the Lethbridge Research Centre to study how measured differences in soil quality affect yield. At each of two sites, 36 diverse soils were deposited onto subsurface soil, and spring wheat was grown, with and without added nitrogen, to measure yield responses. The experiment shows that plants really do ‘notice’ differences in soil quality, as evident from large and persistent yield differences among plots. Yields were related to measurable soil properties; for example, they tended to increase with organic matter content, but only up to a critical value, above which crop yield was not affected by organic matter content. Further analyses will now measure if and how quickly the differences in quality disappear under common management and climate.
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