Legume-cereal intercropping is increasingly being appreciated in dryland areas, where severe climatic conditions and intensive agricultural practices, generally dominated by continuous cereal cultivation, determine depletion of soil nutrient resources and decline of soil fertility. This research aimed to assess whether and to what extent a newly introduced legume-based intercropping system is able to ameliorate the biological fertility status of an arable soil in a way that is still noticeable during the succeeding durum wheat cropping season in terms of changes in bacterial community structure, soil C and N pools, and crop yield. A field experiment was carried out under rainfed conditions in Southern Italy on a sandy clay loam soil cultivated with durum wheat following in the rotation a recently established grain legume (pea, faba bean)-barley intercropping. Soil chemical, biochemical and ecophysiological variables together with compositional shifts in the bacterial community structure by LH-PCR fingerprinting were determined at four sampling times during the durum wheat cropping season. Soil fertility was estimated by using a revised version of the biological fertility index. Results showed that even though the microbial biomass was significantly altered, the preceding legume intercrops stimulated C-related functional variables thus leading to an increased release of mineral N, which was larger in crop treatments succeeding pea-based than faba bean-based intercropping. The increased N made available in soil enabled the succeeding durum wheat to achieve an adequate grain yield with a reduced N-fertilizer use. Soil type and environmental conditions rather than crop treatments were major determinant of bacterial community structure. The biological fertility status was not varied, suggesting that in intensively managed rainfed areas long-term crop rotations with intercropped legumes are needed to consistently ameliorate it.
|Titolo:||Legume-barley intercropping stimulates soil N supply and crop yield in the succeeding durum wheat in a rotation under rainfed conditions|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2015|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|