In the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US regions, cover crops (CCs) are planted during the winter fallow periods or between cash crops to provide living roots and to cover soil for extended time periods. Cover crops can provide a suite of agroecosystem services to cropping systems including soil and water conservation, weed suppression, and nitrogen (N) cycling. After CCs are terminated, the rate of residue decomposition determines both N availability and the longevity of residue cover in conservation tillage (reduced- and no-till) systems. Accurate predictions of plant-available N from decomposing CCs are needed to improve N fertilizer recommendations in order to reduce environmental losses of N while meeting cash crop N needs. The objective of this work is to improve our understanding of the factors controlling CC residue decomposition in conservation tillage systems at varying temporal (diurnal to seasonal) and spatial (laboratory to regional) scales. At a diurnal scale, the moisture (θg)/water potential (ψresidue) and temperature in the surface CC residue layers fluctuated more dramatically and dynamically than the underlying soils. Decomposition of surface CC residues also showed distinct diurnal patterns that were closely related to diurnal variations in residue θg or ψresidue. In a controlled microcosm experiment, the effect of residue location on C and N mineralization during repeated dry-wet cycles were also primarily explained by differences in residue water dynamics than by differences in soil-residue contact between the surface and incorporated residues. At a regional scale, the combination of residue quality and climatic variables explained the majority of the variations in residue decomposition rates, i.e. k-values. I found faster decomposition of surface CC residues in humid environments and in site-years with more frequent rain events. The k-values decreased with increasing biomass, C:N, residue holo-cellulose concentrations, and lignin:N, but increased with increasing residue carbohydrate concentrations. Mathematical equations were developed and integrated into the existing CERES-N sub-model to adjust k-values based on residue environment. Once such models are well-calibrated and well-validated, they will be used to make evidence-based management recommendations to farmers. Thus, this research helps to optimize provisioning of agroecosystem services in CC-based conservation tillage crop production systems.
|Advisor:||Tully, Katherine L., Mirsky, Steven B.|
|Commitee:||Cabrera, Miguel L., Schomberg, Harry H., Lea-Cox, John D., Yarwood, Stephanie|
|School:||University of Maryland, College Park|
|Department:||Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA)|
|School Location:||United States -- Maryland|
|Source:||DAI-B 82/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Agriculture, Agronomy, Ecology|
|Keywords:||C and N mineralization, Conservation tillage, Controlling factors, Cover crops, Decomposition, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US|
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