Special Issue "Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Soil and Plant Nutrition".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Enrique Eymar
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Food Sciences, Autonomous University of Madrid, Av. Francisco Tomás y Valiente 7, 28049 Madrid, Spain
Interests: phytoremediation; bioremediation; white rot fungi; organic pollutants; antibiotics; soil chemistry; soil biology; organic amendments; fertigation; biostimulants
Dr. Carlos García Delgado
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Geology and Geochemistry, Autonomous University of Madrid, Av. Francisco Tomás y Valiente 7, 28049 Madrid, Spain
Interests: bioremediation; white rot fungi; organic pollutants; pesticides; antibiotics; soil chemistry; soil biology; organic amendments

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Healthy soils are the keystone of sustainable agricultural production and an essential resource to ensure human welfare. Agricultural soils are responsible for ecological functions and services that traditionally include the provision of food and fibers, nutrient cycling, maintenance of biogeochemical cycles, and pest and disease suppression, among others. Soil health, indeed, embraces the continuous capacity of soils to maintain their functions and services for future generations. Further attributes of healthy soils include:

  • Reduced GHG emissions from direct and indirect agricultural sources;
  • Improved water and carbon storage, enhancing soil fertility;
  • Support of high biodiversity levels of wild organisms (microbiome, flora, and fauna), domestic animals, and crops;
  • Improved quality and quantity of crop yields;
  • Effects of inorganic and organic pollutants on agricultural soils
  • Physical, chemical and biological methods to describe healthy soils.

This Special Issue on “Soil Health in Agroecosystems” invites submissions on such and other related topics to investigate the role of soil health in all agroecosystem functions, and as providers of ecosystem services, from basic science (biochemical, molecular or physiological approaches) to complex ecological interactions (community ecology, natural enemies, food webs, ecosystem engineers). We also encourage submissions on the influence of agronomical practices and approaches (conventional, organic, agroecological, conservation, or precision agriculture) on soil health, including the response of such soil health aspects to the changing scenarios of climate change.

 

Dr. Dr. Enrique Eymar

Dr. Carlos García Delgado

Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agronomy is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Soil functioning
  • Soil resilience
  • Agroecosystem (bio)diversity

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Soil Microbial Community Changes in a Field Treatment with Chlorotoluron, Flufenacet and Diflufenican and Two Organic Amendments
Agronomy 2020, 10(8), 1166; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10081166 (registering DOI) - 08 Aug 2020
Abstract
The soil microbial activity, biomass and structure were evaluated in an unamended (S) and organically amended soil treated with two commercial formulations of the herbicides chlorotoluron (Erturon®) and flufenacet plus diflufenican (Herold®) under field conditions. Soils were amended with [...] Read more.
The soil microbial activity, biomass and structure were evaluated in an unamended (S) and organically amended soil treated with two commercial formulations of the herbicides chlorotoluron (Erturon®) and flufenacet plus diflufenican (Herold®) under field conditions. Soils were amended with spent mushroom substrate (SMS) or green compost (GC). Soil microbial dehydrogenase activity (DHA), biomass and structure determined by the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles were recorded at 0, 45, 145, 229 and 339 days after herbicide treatment. The soil DHA values steadily decreased over time in the unamended soil treated with the herbicides, while microbial activity was constant in the amended soils. The amended soils recorded higher values of concentrations of PLFAs. Total soil microbial biomass decreased over time regardless of the organic amendment or the herbicide. Herbicide application sharply decreased the microbial population, with a significant modification of the microbial structure in the unamended soil. In contrast, no significant differences in microbial biomass and structure were detected in S + SMS and S + GC, untreated or treated with herbicides. The application of SMS and GC led to a significant shift in the soil microbial community regardless of the herbicides. The use of SMS and GC as organic amendments had a certain buffer effect on soil DHA and microbial biomass and structure after herbicide application due to the higher adsorption capacity of herbicides by the amended soils. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Wheat Cover Crop and Split Nitrogen Application on Corn Yield and Nitrogen Use Efficiency
Agronomy 2020, 10(8), 1081; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10081081 - 27 Jul 2020
Abstract
Corn (Zea mays L.) grain is a major commodity crop in Illinois and its production largely relies on timely application of nitrogen (N) fertilizers. Currently, growers in Illinois and other neighboring states in the U.S. Midwest use the maximum return to N [...] Read more.
Corn (Zea mays L.) grain is a major commodity crop in Illinois and its production largely relies on timely application of nitrogen (N) fertilizers. Currently, growers in Illinois and other neighboring states in the U.S. Midwest use the maximum return to N (MRTN) decision support system to predict corn N requirements. However, the current tool does not factor in implications of integrating cover crops into the rotation, which has recently gained attention among growers due to several ecosystem services associated with cover cropping. A two-year field trail was conducted at the Agronomy Research Center in Carbondale, IL in 2018 and 2019 to evaluate whether split N application affects nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of corn with and without a wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cover crop. A randomized complete block design with split plot arrangements and four replicates was used. Main plots were cover crop treatments (no cover crop (control) compared to a wheat cover crop) and subplots were N timing applications to the corn: (1) 168 kg N ha−1 at planting; (2) 56 kg N ha−1 at planting + 112 kg N ha−1 at sidedress; (3) 112 kg N ha−1 at planting + 56 kg N ha−1 at sidedress; and (4) 168 kg N ha−1 at sidedress along with a zero-N control as check plot. Corn yield was higher in 2018 than 2019 reflecting more timely precipitation in that year. In 2018, grain yield declined by 12.6% following the wheat cover crop compared to no cover crop control, indicating a yield penalty when corn was preceded with a wheat cover crop. In 2018, a year with timely and sufficient rainfall, there were no yield differences among N treatments and N balances were near zero. In 2019, delaying the N application improved NUE and corn grain yield due to excessive rainfall early in the season reflecting on N losses which was confirmed by lower N balances in sidedressed treatments. Overall, our findings suggest including N credit for cereals in MRTN prediction model could help with improved N management in the Midwestern United States. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Oxytetracycline and Chlortetracycline on Bacterial Community Growth in Agricultural Soils
Agronomy 2020, 10(7), 1011; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10071011 - 14 Jul 2020
Abstract
Toxicity on soil bacterial community growth caused by the antibiotics oxytetracycline (OTC) and chlortetracycline (CTC) was studied in 22 agricultural soils after 1, 8 and 42 incubation days. The leucine incorporation method was used with this aim, estimating the concentration of each antibiotic [...] Read more.
Toxicity on soil bacterial community growth caused by the antibiotics oxytetracycline (OTC) and chlortetracycline (CTC) was studied in 22 agricultural soils after 1, 8 and 42 incubation days. The leucine incorporation method was used with this aim, estimating the concentration of each antibiotic which caused an inhibition of 50% in bacterial community growth (log IC50). For OTC, the mean log IC50 was 2.70, 2.81, 2.84 for each of the three incubation times, while the values were 2.05, 2.22 and 2.47 for CTC, meaning that the magnitude of OTC toxicity was similar over time, whereas it decreased significantly for CTC with incubation time. In addition, results showed that the toxicity on bacterial community growth due to CTC is significantly higher than when due to OTC. Moreover, the toxicity on bacterial community growth due to both antibiotics is dependent on soil properties. Specifically, an increase in soil pH and silt content resulted in higher toxicity of both antibiotics, while increases in total organic carbon and clay contents caused decreases in OTC and CTC toxicities. The results also show that OTC toxicity can be well predicted by means of specific equations, using the values of pH measured in KCl and those of effective cation exchange capacity as input variables. CTC toxicity may be predicted (but with low precision) using pH measured in KCl and total organic carbon. These equations may help to predict the negative effects caused by OTC and CTC on soil bacteria using easily measurable soil parameters. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Influence of Tillage, Straw-Returning and Mineral Fertilization on the Stability and Associated Organic Content of Soil Aggregates in the North China Plain
Agronomy 2020, 10(7), 951; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10070951 - 02 Jul 2020
Abstract
Agricultural management, such as tillage and straw-returning, affect soil fertility and nutrient cycling in agroecosystems. With the increasing food demand and challenges imposed by climate change, these effects on soil fertility need to be closely monitored, so that short-term agricultural intensification should not [...] Read more.
Agricultural management, such as tillage and straw-returning, affect soil fertility and nutrient cycling in agroecosystems. With the increasing food demand and challenges imposed by climate change, these effects on soil fertility need to be closely monitored, so that short-term agricultural intensification should not threaten the long-term productivity of the land. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to examine the long-term effects of different management practices on soil aggregate stability and associated organic carbon (OC) and nitrogen (N) over a 33-year period in the croplands of the North China Plain. Bulk soils from the surface and subsurface layers were fractionated using the wet sieving approach. The results showed that the silt + clay (SC) fractions (<0.053 mm) were predominant, accounting for 32–56% of the mass at the 0–20 cm depth, and accounting for 41–55% of the mass at the 20–40 cm depth. Additionally, long-term (33 years) no-tillage management and straw-returning at different application rates increased the mass of large soil macroaggregates (LMA), the LMA- and macroaggregate-associated OC content, but decreased the SC-associated OC content. Mineral N and P fertilizers had a minor effect on the stabilization of soil aggregates. The treatment with straw significantly increased the mean weight diameter (MWD) and geometric mean diameter (GWD), compared with the treatment without straw. Our results indicate that carefully regulated management practices would enhance soil aggregate stability, associated OC and N content in the intensive agroecosystem. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
A Nitrification Inhibitor, Nitrapyrin, Reduces Potential Nitrate Leaching through Soil Columns Treated with Animal Slurries and Anaerobic Digestate
Agronomy 2020, 10(6), 865; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10060865 - 18 Jun 2020
Abstract
A leaching experiment was designed to study the effects of a commercial nitrification inhibitor containing nitrapyrin on nitrification, microbial nitrogen (N) immobilization, and nitrate leaching. Soil columns were treated with 100 mg N kg−1 from pig slurry, cattle slurry, and anaerobic digestate [...] Read more.
A leaching experiment was designed to study the effects of a commercial nitrification inhibitor containing nitrapyrin on nitrification, microbial nitrogen (N) immobilization, and nitrate leaching. Soil columns were treated with 100 mg N kg−1 from pig slurry, cattle slurry, and anaerobic digestate in a mixture with or without the nitrification inhibitor. Destructive sampling was carried out after 0, 7, and 28 days of incubation in the dark at 18 °C. At each sampling date, artificial rain (200 mm of 0.01 M calcium chloride over 4 h) was added to the soil columns. The leachate was collected, and the soil was removed from the columns and sectioned into 5 cm segments. Results indicated that after 28 days of incubation, nitrapyrin enhanced ammoniacal N accumulation in the top layers of the soil columns and reduced the nitrate concentration in the leachates with pig slurry and anaerobic digestate. Furthermore, in the soil columns treated with anaerobic digestate, nitrapyrin promoted microbial N immobilization. These findings suggest that the use of nitrapyrin in a mixture with animal slurry and anaerobic digestate has the potential to reduce nitrate leaching and increase N retention in the topsoil, affording both environmental and economic advantages. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Soil Nutrients Effects on the Performance of Durum Wheat Inoculated with Entomopathogenic Fungi
Agronomy 2020, 10(4), 589; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10040589 - 20 Apr 2020
Abstract
Entomopathogenic fungi (EFs) are widely used as biological control agents. However, some strains of Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium brunneum can also promote plant growth and increase nutrient uptake. We examined the effects of soil properties on the performance of Triticum durum inoculated by [...] Read more.
Entomopathogenic fungi (EFs) are widely used as biological control agents. However, some strains of Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium brunneum can also promote plant growth and increase nutrient uptake. We examined the effects of soil properties on the performance of Triticum durum inoculated by seed dressing with these EFs and grown on 12 agricultural soils. The plants were supplied with all nutrients except P and Zn (essential for yield and the grain quality of wheat). Fungal inoculation increased the grain yield and harvest index significantly with B. bassiana (17% and 14%, respectively) but not with M. brunneum (6% and 6%, respectively). The increase in grain yield was positively and moderately correlated with the soil available phosphorus (POlsen) in plants inoculated with B. bassiana and with the soil content in poorly crystalline Fe oxides with M. brunneum. In addition, the increase in aerial dry matter resulting from inoculation with B. bassiana was negatively correlated with soil available Zn. Furthermore, the observed increase in grain yields due to fungal inoculation resulted in P and Zn grain dilution (grain nutrient concentrations decrease). Inoculation with B. bassiana increased grain Zn uptake and the proportion of Zn in grain relative to that in aerial dry matter. Success in the mutualistic relationship between EF and wheat plants depends on the fungal strain and soil properties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Healthy in Agro-ecosystems)
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