Sprunger, C. D., T. Martin, and M. Mann. 2020. Systems with greater perenniality and crop diversity enhance soil biological health. Agricultural & Environmental Letters 5:e20030.
Soil health has received heightened interest because of its association with long-term agricultural sustainability and ecological benefits, including soil carbon © accumulation. We examined the effects of crop diversity and perenniality on soil biological health and assessed impacts on mineralization and C stabilization processes across 10 systems including four no-till annual row crops, two monoculture perennials, and four polyculture perennials. Crop diversity increased soil biological health in both annual and perennial systems. Rotated annuals with a cover crop increased permanganate oxidizable C (POXC) and soil organic matter relative to continuous corn (Zea mays L.). Perennial polycultures also had 88% and 23% greater mineralizable C relative to the annual and monoculture perennial systems, respectively. All polyculture perennials had significantly greater POXC relative to switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) and annual systems, with the exception of restored prairie. Of the systems assessed in this study, incorporating perennial polycultures into rotations is the most effective way to increase soil biological health and enhance C stabilization.
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