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Cover cropping and poultry litter improve soil physical and hydraulic properties in dryland conditions
Proceedings of the 2023 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2023 Authors: Kovvuri N.R., Feng G., Bi G., Tewole H., Shankle M.

Conservation cropping systems followed with sustainable management practices have many benefits, such as water use efficiency and infiltration. To improve the soil hydraulic function, several management practices can be adapted, which can restore soil health and prevent water erosion. Integration of cover crops and application of poultry litter is identified as the most commonly used management practices for improving soil health and crop productivity. This study was conducted at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station with five cover crop treatments to understand the influence of different cover crops like the winter wheat, cereal rye, vetch, cereal rye combined with mustard, and native vegetation on soil hydraulic properties and water quality that can impact the crop yield. For this study, core soil sampling was done after the harvest of the cash crop. Data collection included soil hydraulic and physical properties, such as water-stable aggregates, bulk density, available water content, and saturated hydraulic conductivity, which have been measured after five years of cover crop and poultry litter treatments. The results indicated that the integration of cover crops showed little effect on the soil properties as compared to no cover crop treatment. Data on soil properties were subjected to analysis of variance to assess the effects of cover crops and poultry litter on soil hydraulic responses. There was a significant difference between the fertilizer treatments, and the plots applied with poultry litter performed well at p < 0.05, indicating high infiltration and less bulk density as compared to inorganic fertilizer and no fertilizer treatments. However, the asserted influence of the combined effect of poultry litter and cover crops on soil hydraulic and physical properties is largely unknown.

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