Obtaining more benefits from crop residues as soil amendments by application as chemically heterogeneous mixtures

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Struijk, M., Whitmore, A. P., Mortimer, S. R. and Sizmur, T. 2020. Obtaining more benefits from crop residues as soil amendments by application as chemically heterogeneous mixtures. Soil. 6 (2), p. 467–481. https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-6-467-2020

AuthorsStruijk, M., Whitmore, A. P., Mortimer, S. R. and Sizmur, T.

Crop residues are valuable soil amendments in terms of the carbon and other nutrients they contain, but the incorporation of residues does not always translate into increases in nutrient availability, soil organic matter (SOM), soil structure, and overall soil fertility. Studies have demonstrated accelerated decomposition rates of chemically heterogeneous litter mixtures, compared to the decomposition of individual litters, in forest and grassland systems. Mixing high C:N ratio with low C:N ratio amendments may result in greater carbon use efficiency (CUE) and nonadditive benefits in soil properties.

We hypothesised that nonadditive benefits would accrue from mixtures of low-quality (straw or woodchips) and high-quality (vegetable waste compost) residues applied before lettuce planting in a full factorial field experiment. Properties indicative of soil structure and nutrient cycling were used to assess the benefits from residue mixtures, including soil respiration, aggregate stability, bulk density, SOM, available N, potentially mineralisable N, available P, K, and Mg, and crop yield.

Soil organic matter and mineral N levels were significantly and non additively greater in the straw–compost mixture compared to individual residues, which mitigated the N immobilisation occurring with straw-only applications. The addition of compost significantly increased available N, K, and Mg levels. Together, these observations suggest that greater nutrient availability improved the ability of decomposer organisms to degrade straw in the straw–compost mixture.

We demonstrate that mixtures of crop residues can influence soil properties non additively. Thus, greater benefits may be achieved by removing, mixing, and reapplying crop residues than by simply returning them to the soils in situ.

Year of Publication2020
Journal citation6 (2), p. 467–481
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-6-467-2020
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 3 (WP3) - Sustainable intensification - optimisation at multiple scales
Publisher's version
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online07 Oct 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted18 Jul 2020
PublisherEuropean Geosciences Union (EGU)
Other fileObtaining%20more%20benefits%20from%20crop%20residues%20as%20soil%20amendments%20by%20application%20as%20chemically%20heterogeneous%20mixtures.pdf

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