Peer-reviewed Article: Fifteen years of no till increase soil organic matter, microbial biomass and arthropod diversity in cover crop-based arable cropping systems

Journal of Agronomy for Sustainable Development

Tek Bahadur Sapkota & Marco Mazzoncini & Paolo Barberi & Daniele Antichi & Nicola Silvestri, December 2011

The physical, chemical and biological properties of soil may be modified by tillage, fertilization and cover crops. However there is little knowledge on long-term effects on soil properties, notably under Mediterranean climate. Moreover, biological indicators such as micro-arthropods can be used for a cost-effective analysis of soil biodiversity. In this study they look at the physical and biological properties of a sandy loam soil in central Italy under a 4-year rotation of maize–durum wheat–cover crop–sunflower–durum wheat–cover crop during 15 years. We analysed the effects of two tillage systems, conventional tillage (CT) and no-tillage (NT); two N fertilization rates, without N and medium N level; and three soil covers: cash crop residue as control, Brassica juncea and Vicia villosa. We conclude that no tillage is an effective measure to improve the physical and biological quality of soil in Mediterranean conditions. No-tillage positive effect can be enhanced by the right choice of N fertilization and cover crop cultivation. Bio-indicators such as micro-arthropods can be very predictive of soil habitability by organisms.

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