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Integrated crops and livestock in central North Dakota, USA: Agroecosystem management to buffer soil change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 May 2011

M.A. Liebig*
Affiliation:
USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554-0459, USA.
D.L. Tanaka
Affiliation:
USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554-0459, USA.
S.L. Kronberg
Affiliation:
USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554-0459, USA.
E.J. Scholljegerdes
Affiliation:
Animal and Range Sciences, New Mexico State University, 218 Knox Hall, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8003, USA.
J.F. Karn
Affiliation:
USDA-ARS, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554-0459, USA.
*
*Corresponding author: mark.liebig@ars.usda.gov

Abstract

Integrated crop–livestock systems have been purported to have numerous agronomic and environmental benefits, yet information documenting their long-term impact on the soil resource is lacking. This study sought to quantify the effects of an integrated crop–livestock system on near-surface soil properties in central North Dakota, USA. Soil bulk density, electrical conductivity, soil pH, extractable N and P, potentially mineralizable N, soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) were measured 3, 6 and 9 years after treatment establishment to evaluate the effects of residue management (Grazed, Hayed and Control), the frequency of hoof traffic (High traffic, Low traffic and No traffic), season (Fall and Spring) and production system (integrated annual cropping versus perennial grass) on near-surface soil quality. Values for soil properties were incorporated into a soil quality index (SQI) using the Soil Management Assessment Framework to assess overall treatment effects on soil condition. Residue management and frequency of hoof traffic did not affect near-surface soil properties throughout the evaluation period. Aggregated SQI values did not differ between production systems 9 years after treatment establishment (integrated annual cropping=0.91, perennial grass=0.93; P=0.57), implying a near-identical capacity of each system to perform critical soil functions. Results from the study suggest that with careful management, agricultural producers can convert perennial grass pastures to winter-grazed annual cropping systems without adversely affecting near-surface soil quality. However, caution should be exercised in applying results to other regions or management systems. The consistent freeze/thaw and wet/dry cycles typical of the northern Great Plains, coupled with the use of no-till management, modest fertilizer application rates and winter grazing likely played an important role in the outcome of the results.

Type
Research Papers
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011. This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States.

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Footnotes

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and all agency services are available without discrimination. Mention of commercial products and organizations in this manuscript is solely to provide specific information. It does not constitute endorsement by USDA-ARS over other products and organizations not mentioned.

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