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Effect of Crop Residue Decomposition on Soil Aggregate Stability

Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, 51006 Tartu, Estonia
Department of Geography, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 50090 Tartu, Estonia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agriculture 2020, 10(11), 527;
Received: 13 October 2020 / Revised: 31 October 2020 / Accepted: 3 November 2020 / Published: 5 November 2020
The decomposition of fresh crop residues added to soil for agricultural purposes is complex. This is due to different factors that influence the decomposition process. In field conditions, the incorporation of crop residues into soil does not always have a positive effect on aggregate stability. The aim of this study was to investigate the decomposition effects of residues from two different cover crops (Brassica napus var. oleifera and Secale cereale) and one main crop (wheat straw) on soil aggregate stability. A 105-day incubation experiment was conducted in which crop residues were mixed with sandy loam soil at a rate of 6 g C kg−1 of soil. During the incubation, there were five water additions. The decomposition effects of organic matter on soil conditions during incubation were evaluated by determining the soil functional groups; carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) emissions; soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC); and water-stable aggregates (WSA). The functional groups of the plant residues and the soil were analyzed using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and a double exponential model was used to estimate the decomposition rates. The results show that the decomposition rate of fresh organic materials was correlated with the soil functional groups and the C/N ratio. Oilseed rape and rye, with lower C/N ratios than wheat straw residues, had faster decomposition rates and higher CO2 and N2O emissions than wheat straw. The CO2 and N2O flush at the start of the experiment corresponded to a decrease of soil aggregate stability (from Day 3 to Day 10 for CO2 and from Day 19 to Day 28 for N2O emissions), which was linked to higher decomposition rates of the labile fraction. The lower decomposition rates contributed to higher remaining C (carbon) and higher soil aggregate stability. The results also show that changes in the soil functional groups due to crop residue incorporation did not significantly influence aggregate stability. Soil moisture (SM) negatively influenced the aggregate stability and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in all treatments (oilseed rape, rye, wheat straw, and control). Irrespective of the water addition procedure, rye and wheat straw residues had a positive effect on water-stable aggregates more frequently than oilseed rape during the incubation period. The results presented here may contribute to a better understanding of decomposition processes after the incorporation of fresh crop residues from cover crops. A future field study investigating the influence of incorporation rates of different crop residues on soil aggregate stability would be of great interest. View Full-Text
Keywords: aggregate stability; cover crops; decomposition rates; greenhouse gas emissions; microbial biomass aggregate stability; cover crops; decomposition rates; greenhouse gas emissions; microbial biomass
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MDPI and ACS Style

Stegarescu, G.; Escuer-Gatius, J.; Soosaar, K.; Kauer, K.; Tõnutare, T.; Astover, A.; Reintam, E. Effect of Crop Residue Decomposition on Soil Aggregate Stability. Agriculture 2020, 10, 527.

AMA Style

Stegarescu G, Escuer-Gatius J, Soosaar K, Kauer K, Tõnutare T, Astover A, Reintam E. Effect of Crop Residue Decomposition on Soil Aggregate Stability. Agriculture. 2020; 10(11):527.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Stegarescu, Gheorghe, Jordi Escuer-Gatius, Kaido Soosaar, Karin Kauer, Tõnu Tõnutare, Alar Astover, and Endla Reintam. 2020. "Effect of Crop Residue Decomposition on Soil Aggregate Stability" Agriculture 10, no. 11: 527.

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