Dairy cattle manure effects on soil quality: porosity, earthworms, aggregates and soil organic carbon fractions
Domingo Olivé, Francesc
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In the European Union, the maintenance of soil quality is a key point in agricultural policy. The effect of additions of dairy cattle (Bos taurus) manure (DCM) during a period of 11 years were evaluated in a soil under irrigated maize (Zea mays L.) monoculture. DCM was applied at sowing, at wet-weight rates of 30 or 60 Mg ha−1yr−1 (30DCM or 60DCM). These were compared with a mineral-N treatment (300 kg N ha−1, MNF), applied at 6–8 emerged leaves and with a control (no N, no manure). Treatments were distributed in a randomized block design. Factors analysed were stability against wetting stress disaggregation, porosity, soil organic carbon (SOC) fractions and earthworm abundance, studied eight months after the last manure application. The application rate of 30DCM increased aggregate stability and the light SOC fraction, but not the pore volume, nor the earthworm abundance, compared with MNF. The DCM rates did not result in unbalanced agronomic advantages versus MNF, as high yields (17–18 Mg ha−1 yr−1) were obtained. In Mediterranean environments, the use of DCM should be encouraged mainly because of its contribution to the light SOC fraction which protects dry macro-aggregates from implosion (slaking) during the wetting process. Thus, in intensive agricultural systems, it protects soil from physical degradation.