Comparison of compaction alleviation methods on soil health and greenhouse gas emissions

Author Bussell, J., Crotty, F., & Stoate, C.
Citation Bussell, J., Crotty, F., & Stoate, C. (2021). Comparison of compaction alleviation methods on soil health and greenhouse gas emissions. Land, 10(12): 1397.

Abstract

Soil compaction can occur due to trafficking by heavy equipment and be exacerbated by unfavourable conditions such as wet weather. Compaction can restrict crop growth and increase waterlogging, which can increase the production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Cultivation can be used to alleviate compaction, but this can have negative impacts on earthworm abundance and increase the production of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. In this study, a field was purposefully compacted using trafficking, then in a replicated plot experiment, ploughing, low disturbance subsoiling and the application of a mycorrhizal inoculant were compared as methods of compaction alleviation, over two years of cropping. These methods were compared in terms of bulk density, penetration resistance, crop yield, greenhouse gas emissions and earthworm abundance. Ploughing alleviated topsoil compaction, as measured by bulk density and penetrometer resistance, and increased the crop biomass in one year of the study, although no yield differences were seen. Earthworm abundance was reduced in both years in the cultivated plots, and carbon dioxide flux increased significantly, although this was not significant in summer months. Outside of the summer months, nitrous oxide production increased in the non-cultivated treatments, which was attributed to increased denitrifying activity under compacted conditions.

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