Soil and crop management influences on soil physical quality of Sanborn Field
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Soil water is often the most limited factor for plant growth and yield, causing plant available water to be the best indicator of soil quality. This study explores how soil and crop management influences soil physical quality, by using soil samples (7.6 cm diam. by 7.6 cm) from ten long-term historical plots of Sanborn Field, and determining Dexter's S-Index of soil physical quality. The soil bulk density, organic matter, shear strength, and water characteristic curve from plots of continuous corn, wheat, timothy, and a rotation of corn, wheat, and red clover both with and without application of farmyard manure cultivated for 126 years were estimated. The soil was Mexico silt loam (fine, smectitic, mesic, Vertic, Epiaqualfs). Soil samples were taken from the surface horizon 0-10 cm depth in the December 2014. Significant differences in bulk density (Pr<0.01), organic matter (Pr<0.01), and water characteristic curve (Pr<0.01) were found among the treatments. The continuous timothy FYM treatment had highest saturated water content, soil organic matter, and lowest bulk density. The lowest saturated water content and the highest bulk density were found for the continuous wheat no fertility treatment. The highest S-value was found for the continuous timothy treatment but there was no significant difference compared to other treatments. This study showed that the Dexter's S-theory is not generally valid for all soil and crop managements on the Sanborn Field. It can be used with other soil quality indicators for better soil quality determination. Soil and crop managements had significant influences on soil physical properties. Application of FYM increased the soil organic matter and improved the soil structure.