Dairy cattle manure improves soil productivity in low residue rotation systems

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Mineral fertilizer alone may not sustain soil productivity in cropping systems that return little crop residues to the soil, unless additional organic residues and/or manure is applied regularly to the soil. The objective of the present study was to assess the long-term effects of mineral fertilization (No fertilizer, PK, and NPK) and manure addition (0 and 20 Mg ha–1 yr–1) on soil physical and chemical properties and crop yields in a cereal rotation with removal of crop residues. After 28 yr, soil organic carbon (SOC) declined by –0.25 g C kg–1 yr–1 and total nitrogen (TN) by –0.025 g N kg–1 yr–1 with balanced mineral fertilization (NPK, no manure), comparable to the control (no manure, no fertilizer). In addition, mean weight diameter (MWD) of water-stable aggregates was lower with balanced mineral fertilization than in the control. In contrast, long-term application of manure significantly increased water-stable macroaggregates, potentially mineralizable nitrogen (PMN), and soil preseeding NO3–N levels. Corn yield and N uptake were increased by mineral fertilization compared to the control, and manure application increased corn yield by 89 and 87% and corn N uptake by 110 and 79% in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Increased corn yield in manured plots was attributed to the residual manure-derived nutrients and to improved soil properties. Mineral fertilizer alone could not sustain soil productivity in intensive low-residues cropping systems.

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