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Absence of a home-field advantage within a short-rotation arable cropping system
Plant and Soil  (IF4.192),  Pub Date : 2022-04-26, DOI: 10.1007/s11104-022-05419-z
Marijke Struijk, Andrew P. Whitmore, Simon Mortimer, Xin Shu, Tom Sizmur

Aims

The home-field advantage (HFA) hypothesis predicts faster decomposition of plant residues in home soil compared to soils with different plants (away), and has been demonstrated in forest and grassland ecosystems. It remains unclear if this legacy effect applies to crop residue decomposition in arable crop rotations. Such knowledge could improve our understanding of decomposition dynamics in arable soils and may allow optimisation of crop residue amendments in arable systems by cleverly combining crop-residue rotations with crop rotations to increase the amount of residue-derived C persisting in soil.

Methods

We tested the HFA hypothesis in a reciprocal transplant experiment with mesh bags containing wheat and oilseed rape residues in soils at three stages of a short-rotation cropping system. Subsets of mesh bags were retrieved monthly for six months to determine residue decomposition rates, concomitantly measuring soil available N, microbial community structure (phospholipid fatty acid analysis), and microbial activity (Tea Bag Index protocol) to assess how plants may influence litter decomposition rates via alterations to soil biochemical properties and microbial communities.

Results

The residues decomposed at similar rates at all rotational stages. Thorough data investigation using several statistical approaches revealed no HFA within the crop rotation. Soil microbial community structures were similar at all rotational stages.

Conclusions

We attribute the absence of an HFA to the shortness of the rotation and soil disturbance involved in intensive agricultural practices. It is therefore unlikely that appreciable benefits could be obtained in short conventionally managed arable rotations by introducing a crop-residue rotation.