Corn stover is a global resource used in many industrial sectors including bioenergy, fuel, and livestock operations. However, stover removal can negatively impact soil nutrient availability, especially nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), biological activity, and soil health. We evaluated the effects of corn stover management combined with N and P fertilization on soil quality, using soil chemical (nitrate, ammonium and Bray-1 P) and biological parameters (β-glucosidase, alkaline phosphatase, arylsulfatase activities and fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis—FDA). The experiment was performed on a Mollisol (Typic Endoaquoll) in a continuous corn system from 2013 to 2015 in Minnesota, USA. The treatments tested included six N rates (0 to 200 kg N ha−1), five P rates (0 to 100 kg P2O5 ha−1), and two residue management strategies (residue removed or incorporated) totalling 60 treatments. Corn stover management significantly impacted soil mineral-N forms and enzyme activity. In general, plots where residue was incorporated were found to have high NH4+ and enzyme activity compared to plots where residue was removed. In contrast, fields where residue was removed showed higher NO3− than plots where residue was incorporated. Residue management had little effect on soil available P. Soil enzyme activity was affected by both nutrient and residue management. In most cases, activity of the enzymes measured in plots where residue was removed frequently showed a positive response to added N and P. In contrast, soil enzyme responses to applied N and P in plots where residue was incorporated were less evident. Soil available nutrients tended to decrease in plots where residue was removed compared with plots where residue was incorporated. In conclusion, stover removal was found to have significant potential to change soil chemical and biological properties and caution should be taken when significant amounts of stover are removed from continuous corn fields. The residue removal could decrease different enzymes related to C-cycle (β-glucosidase) and soil microbial activity (FDA) over continuous cropping seasons, impairing soil health.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge Southwest Research & Outreach Center technicians (SWROC/CFANS?U of Mn) by the valuable help in samples collection and analysis.
© 2022, The Author(s).
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