Rasse, D. P. and A. J. Smucker. 1998. Root recolonization of pervious root channels in corn and alfalfa rotations. Plant and Soil 204:203-212.
Distribution of root systems through soils and recolonization of root channels by successive crops are fundamental, though difficult to study, processes of soil ecology. This article reports a minirhizotron (MR) study of corn and alfalfa root systems throughout the soil profile of Kalamazoo loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludalf) monolith lysimeters for a three-year succession of corn, alfalfa and corn. Multiple-date comparisons within and between years were conducted to estimate total root densities in each soil horizon. Root recolonization was assessed by comparing every video frame of paired minirhizotrons, from recordings conducted one growing season apart. Distributions of corn root systems were modified by tillage practices. In 1994, root populations of corn in the Bt1 horizon peaked 75–90 days after planting (DAP). Numbers of corn roots per m2 in the Bt1 horizon were consistently higher for no-tillage (NT) than for conventional tillage (CT) lysimeters, in 1994 and 1996. Distribution of alfalfa roots within the soil profile was not significantly modified by tillage. However, alfalfa root decomposition rates responded to conventional and no-tillage practices and were specific for each soil horizon. Corn root systems growing in soils previously cropped with alfalfa presented similar patterns of root distribution by horizons as that of the previous alfalfa crop. Successive corn root systems did not display similar distribution patterns throughout the soil profile from one growing season to the next. Proportions of roots of the current crop recolonizing root induced macropores (RIMs) of the previous crop averaged 18% for corn after corn, 22% for alfalfa after corn and 41% for corn after alfalfa, across Bt horizons and tillage treatments. In conclusion, distribution of corn root systems appeared to be modified by tillage practices and root recolonization of RIMs was controlled by the preceding crop.
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