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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Winter Cover Crop Effects on Soil Organic Carbon and Carbohydrate in Soil


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 61 No. 1, p. 145-152
    Received: July 24, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): skuo@wsu.edu
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  1. S. Kuo ,
  2. U. M. Sainju and
  3. E. J. Jellum
  1. Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center, 7612 Pioneer Way East, Puyallup, WA 98371-4998



Winter cover crops may increase soil organic carbon (SOC) levels or reduce their rate of depletion. Selection of appropriate cover crops to increase SOC requires an adequate knowledge of the quality and quantity of plant biomass produced and its rate of decomposition in soil. This study examined the SOC and carbohydrate concentrations in soil as affected by several leguminous and nonleguminous cover crops after 6 yr of a corn (Zea mays L.) cover crop double cropping system in a temperate, humid region. The vegetation in the control treatment without cover crops was primarily shepherd's-purse [Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medikus]. The cover crops had a variable effect on SOC and soil carbohydrate concentrations due to a significant difference in total organic C and carbohydrate produced by the cover crops. The buried bag technique showed that the biomass C from the aboveground biomass of the cover crops decomposed rapidly in the soil with a half-life averaging 30.9 ± 9.4 (SD) d in 1992 and 55.2 ± 7.8 (SD) d in 1993. The decomposition of carbohydrate in the aboveground biomass in the soil was also rapid with an average half-life of 40.0 ± 13.1 (SD) d in 1992 and 50.5 ± 11.8 (SD) d in 1993. The overriding cover crop effect on SOC and carbohydrate was due to the magnitude of the C inputs from the cover crops. With more than 4 Mg ha−1 of top biomass, cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) and annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) were better suited as winter cover crops for building SOC levels in this region than Austrian winter pea (Lathyrus hirsutus L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), and canola (Brassica napus L.).

Scientific Paper No. 9506-18, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture and Home Economics Research Center, Washington State Univ., Pullman, WA 99164.

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