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Crop residue removal

Harvesting crop residues for bioenergy or bio-product production may decrease soil organic matter (SOM) content, resulting in the degradation of soil physical properties and ultimately soil productivity. Using the least limiting water range (LLWR) to evaluate improvement or degradation of soil physical properties in response to SOM changes has generally been hampered by the extensive amount of data needed to parameterize limiting factor models for crop production. Our objective was to evaluate five pedotransfer functions to determine their effectiveness in predicting soil water holding capacity in response to different SOM levels. Similarly, two other pedotransfer functions were evaluated to determine the effects of SOM on cone index values. Predictions of field capacity and wilting point water content as well as the cone index–water content–bulk density relationship of soil strength using the pedotransfer functions were compared with field data from two tillage experiments near Akron, CO that had a range of SOM concentrations. Equations previously developed by da Silva and Kay gave the best estimates of LLWR for the pedotransfer functions we evaluated. These equations were then used to illustrate LLWR changes in response to different soil and crop management practices on a Duroc loam near Sidney, NE. The results showed that tillage and, possibly, soil erosion decreased the LLWR as tillage intensity increased. Therefore, we recommend that crop residue removal rates be limited to rates that maintain or increase SOM content to ensure soil physical conditions are not degraded.

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Joseph G. Benjamin , Douglas L. Karlen
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