Broiler litter fertilization and cropping system impacts on soil properties
Understanding the effects of management practices on soil properties is necessary because soil properties are directly related to the capacity of soil to function. Soil physical, chemical and biological properties were determined after 3 yr in three cropping sequences [continuous cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) (CCC), cotton-corn (Zea mays L.)-cotton (CMC), and corn-cotton-cotton (MCC) each at four broiler litter fertilization rates (0, 4.5, 9, and 13.4 Mg ha–1) to a soil depth of 15 cm on a Catalpa silty clay loam soil in Verona, MS. Inorganic N fertilizer was applied at the rate of 123 kg ha–1 yr–1 to cotton and 180 kg ha–1 yr–1 to corn. Averaged across crop sequences, broiler litter application significantly increased soil nutrient concentrations, microbial biomass C (MBC), total porosity, and aggregate stability (AS). The inclusion of corn into rotation with cotton increased soil MBC, AS, and reduced bulk density (Db). Application of broiler litter at rate greater than 9 Mg ha–1 to CCC resulted in increasing NO3–N concentration at the lower 30-cm depth and P accumulation by fourfold at the 0- to 5-cm depth. Rotating cotton with corn in this study improved soil quality parameters and decreased NO3–N and P accumulation at the soil surface by approximately 24 and 20%, respectively. Hence, corn is sown in rotation with cotton in Mississippi, the Mississippian cotton industry could potentially improve soil organic carbon, nutrient cycling, and soil quality if broiler litter is used as the nutrient source.