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Long-term no-tillage application increases soil organic carbon, nitrous oxide emissions and faba bean (Vicia faba L.) yields under rain-fed Mediterranean conditions

AuthorsBadagliacca, G.; Benítez León, Emilio; Amato, G.; Badalucco, L.; Giambalvo, D.; Laudicina, V.A.; Ruisi, P.
KeywordsTillage system
Semiarid Mediterranean environment
N gas emissions
N cycle genes
Issue Date2018
CitationScience of the Total Environment 639: 350- 359 (2018)
AbstractThe introduction of legumes into crop sequences and the reduction of tillage intensity are both proposed as agronomic practices to mitigate the soil degradation and negative impact of agriculture on the environment. However, the joint effects of these practices on nitrous oxide (NO) and ammonia (NH) emissions from soil remain unclear, particularly concerning semiarid Mediterranean areas. In the frame of a long-term field experiment (23 years), a 2-year study was performed on the faba bean (Vicia faba L.) to evaluate the effects of the long-term use of no tillage (NT) compared to conventional tillage (CT) on yield and NO and NH emissions from a Vertisol in a semiarid Mediterranean environment. Changes induced by the tillage system in soil bulk density, water filled pore space (WFPS), organic carbon (TOC) and total nitrogen (TN), denitrifying enzyme activity (DEA), and bacterial gene (16S, amoA, and nosZ) abundance were measured as parameters potentially affecting N gas emissions. No tillage, compared with CT, significantly increased the faba bean grain yield by 23%. The tillage system had no significant effect on soil NH emissions. Total NO emissions, averaged over two cropping seasons, were higher in NT than those in CT plots (2.58 vs 1.71 kg NO-N ha, respectively; P < 0.01). In addition, DEA was higher in NT compared to that in CT (74.6 vs 18.6 μg NO-N kg h; P < 0.01). The higher NO emissions in NT plots were ascribed to the increase of soil bulk density and WFPS, bacteria (16S abundance was 96% higher in NT than that in CT) and N cycle genes (amoA and nosZ abundances were respectively 154% and 84% higher in NT than that in CT). The total NO emissions in faba bean were similar to those measured in other N-fertilized crops. In conclusion, a full evaluation of NT technique, besides the benefits on soil characteristics (e.g. TOC increase) and crop yield, must take into account some criticisms related to the increase of NO emissions compared to CT.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.157
issn: 1879-1026
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