Opening up the subsoil: Subsoiling and bio-subsoilers to remediate subsoil compaction in three fodder crop rotations on a sandy loam soil
The intensification of modern arable farming has brought on a steady increase of the risk of soil compaction, while simultaneously pushing the impact deeper into the soil profile. In the subsoil, outside the reach of regular tillage operation, it can become exceedingly difficult to deal with compacted layers. Commonly, farmers turn towards mechanical remediation strategies, like subsoiling, to deal with this issue. However, the numerous drawbacks that come with these operations have prompted the search for more sustainable alternatives, like bio-subsoilers, which are deep-rooting plant species with the capacity to penetrate compacted subsoil layers. This study aimed at investigating both mechanical and biological remediation strategies in a side-by-side comparison. The effectiveness of subsoiling and the use of two deep rooting (cover) crops (i.e. alfalfa and fodder radish) as remediation measures to alleviate subsoil compaction was assessed in terms of soil quality indicators, like penetration resistance, bulk density, porosity, plant available water capacity, air capacity and air permeability at 35 and 45 cm depth, and the above-and belowground growth of the main crop. In addition, a combination of both subsoiling and use of deep rooting (cover) crops was included to evaluate the potential role of the latter in protecting the mechanically loosened subsoil from recompaction. This complex comparison was done in three distinct maize-based fodder crop rotations (rotation 1: maize monoculture; rotation 2: maize/winter cereal rotation with fodder radish as cover crop after winter cereal; rotation 3: maize/winter cereal/alfalfa rotation). The study field (sandy loam soil) was selected based on the presence of a highly compacted layer at the interface between topsoil and subsoil (30-50 cm). The experiment demonstrated that subsoiling is an effective remedia-tion measure to disrupt heavily compacted layers in the upper-subsoil, at least in the short-term. The crop response was however highly variable and only positive when the opportunity of reaching the subsoil proved to be advantageous for the crop (i.e. dry season). Besides its high degree of variability between years, the effects also proved to be very short-lived under a standard arable fodder crop rotation. Including deep rooting (cover) crops, like fodder radish and alfalfa, and limiting the initial subsoil disruption helped to partially stabilize the disrupted subsoil and reduce recompaction. Fodder radish and alfalfa penetrated the compacted subsoil without previous disruption by subsoiling. However, this did not lead to a significant improvement of the measured soil physical parameters.
Source (journal)
Soil and tillage research. - Amsterdam
Amsterdam : 2024
237 (2024) , 15 p.
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Creation 01.02.2024
Last edited 07.02.2024
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