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Long-term effects of continuous direct seeding mulch-based cropping systems on soil nitrogen supply in the Cerrado region of Brazil

Maltas A., Corbeels M., Scopel E., Oliver R., Douzet J.M., Macena Da Silva F.A., Wery J.. 2007. Plant and Soil, 298 : p. 161-173.

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-007-9350-1

In the Cerrado region of Brazil conventional soybean monoculture is since the 1980s being replaced by direct seeding mulch-based cropping (DMC) with two crops per year and absence of tillage practices. The objective of this study was to assess the long-term impact of DMC on soil organic matter accumulation and nitrogen (N) mineralization. Measurements of soil organic carbon (C) content, soil total N content and soil N mineralization, both under laboratory conditions using disturbed soil samples and under field conditions using intact soil cores were conducted on a chronosequence of 2-, 6-, 9- and 14-year-old DMC fields (DMC-2, DMC-6, DMC-9 and DMC-14, respectively). The average increase of organic C in the 0-30 cm topsoil layer under DMC was 1.91 Mg C ha-1 year-1. Soil total N increased with 103 kg N ha-1 year-1 (0-30 cm). The potential N mineralization rate under laboratory conditions (28°C, 75% of soil moisture at field capacity) was 0.27, 0.28, 0.39 and 0.36 mg N kg soil-1 day-1 for, respectively, the DMC-2, DMC-6, DMC-9 and DMC-14 soils. The corresponding specific N mineralization rates were 0.16, 0.15, 0.22 and 0.17 mg N g N-1 day-1. There was no obvious explanation for the higher specific N mineralization rate of soils under DMC-9, given the similar soil conditions and land-use history before DMC was introduced. Results from the in situ N incubation experiments were in good agreement with those from the laboratory incubations. We estimated that soil N mineralization increases with about 2.0 kg N ha-1 year-1 under DMC. The increase was mainly attributed to the larger soil total N content. These results indicate that even in the medium term (10 years), continuous DMC cropping has limited implications for N fertilization recommendations, since the extra soil N supply represents less than 20% of the common N fertilization dose for maize in the region.
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