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https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-9
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-9
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 27 Mar 2020

Submitted as: original research article | 27 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

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

Marijke Struijk1,2, Andrew P. Whitmore2, Simon R. Mortimer3, and Tom Sizmur1 Marijke Struijk et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 2Department of Sustainable Agriculture Sciences, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK
  • 3School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading, UK

Abstract. Crop residues are valuable soil amendments in terms of the carbon and other nutrients they contain, but 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 and non-additive benefits in soil properties (i.e. mixture ≠ sum of the parts).

We hypothesised that non-additive 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 benefits from residue mixtures, including soil respiration, aggregate stability, bulk density, SOM, available and potentially mineralisable N, available P, K and Mg, and crop yield.

Soil organic matter and mineral nitrogen 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. Addition of compost significantly increased soil 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 re-applying crop residues, than by simply returning them to the soils in situ.

Marijke Struijk et al.

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Obtaining more benefits from crop residues as soil amendments by application as chemically heterogeneous mixtures M. Struijk https://doi.org/10.17632/jcrvmb8hwy.1

Marijke Struijk et al.

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Short summary
Crop residues are widely available on-farm resources containing carbon and nutrients, but as soil amendments, their decomposition does not always benefit the soil. We applied mixtures of crop residues that are chemically different from each other and found significantly increased soil organic matter and available nitrogen levels. Applying crop-residue mixtures has practical implications involving the removal, mixing and re-application, rather than simply returning crop residues to soils in-situ.
Crop residues are widely available on-farm resources containing carbon and nutrients, but as...
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