Moore, Elizabeth
Norton, Urszula
Winter wheat (Triticum aestivum, L.) production in the semi-arid US Northern High Plains (NHP) is challenged by frequent droughts and water-limited, low fertility soils. Composted cattle manure (compost) and cover crops (CC) are known to provide agroecosystem services such as improved soil health, and in the CC case, increased plant diversity, and competition with weedy species. The main concern of planting CC in winter wheat fallow rotation in regions that are more productive than the NHP, however, is the soil moisture depletion. It is unknown however, whether addition of CC to compost-amended soils in the NHP will improve soil properties and agroecosystem health without compromising already low soil water content. The main objective of this study was to assess the effects of four CC treatments amended with compost (45 Mg ha-1) or inorganic fertilizer (IF) (.09 Mg ha-1 mono-ammonium phosphate, 11-52-0 and 1.2 Mg ha-1ammonium sulfate, 21-0-0) on the presence of weeds, soil and plant total carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation (BNF). Mycorrhizal Mix (MM), Nitrogen Fixer Mix (NF), Soil Building Mix (SB), a monoculture of phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth L.) (PH), and a no CC control (no CC) were grown in native soil kept at 7% soil moisture in a greenhouse for a period of nine weeks. When amended with compost, MM was the most beneficial (48 g m-2 BNF and 1.7% soil C increase). SB had the highest germination, aboveground biomass, and decreased weed biomass by 60% . It also demonstrated the second highest amount of BNF (40 g m-2) and soil C increase by 1.5%. On contrary, IF hindered BNF by almost 70% in all legume-containing CC treatments and reduced soil C by 15%. Keywords: biological nitrogen fixation, 15N natural abundance
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