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Short-term impacts of different intercropping times of maize and ruzigrass on soil physical properties in subtropical Brazil (2023)

Secco D., Bassegio D., de Marins A., Chang P., Savioli M., Castro M., Mesa V., Silva É., Wendt E.

Soil and Tillage Research, 234 (), 105838



Agricultural production in Central Europe increasingly suffers from extreme drought events. Improving root access to nutrient and water resources in the subsoil below the plow layer is a potential option to maintain productivity during dry summers. Here, we tested a strip-wise subsoil amelioration method that combines subsoil loosening with organic matter incorporation into the subsoil (biowaste or green waste compost) and compared it with a treatment of only subsoil loosening and a non-ameliorated control. A field experiment with randomized block design was conducted on a Luvisol with an argic horizon (Bt), with a rotation of spring barley and winter wheat. In the first two years after amelioration, we monitored soil physico-chemical parameters, microbial biomass, and shoot and root growth at anthesis as well as harvested grain yield and quality. Subsoil loosening with organic matter incorporation significantly decreased soil bulk density at the depth of compost incorporation when biowaste compost was used, but not when green waste compost had been incorporated. Nutrient stocks, nutrient availability and microbial biomass were not consistently affected by the subsoil amelioration. Nevertheless, the incorporation of organic material, especially biowaste compost, significantly increased root growth into the subsoil and subsequently significantly enhanced crop nutrient uptake, biomass and grain yield production. Green waste compost incorporation had less pronounced effects, with an increase in grain yield only in the second year after amelioration. Differences in crop development could not be explained by any single soil parameter, suggesting that it was rather a combined effect of loosened subsoil and better supply of subsoil resources that resulted in an increase in subsoil root length density and subsequently led to better crop performance.

Sustainable Subsoil Management