Long-term tillage and crop rotation effects on soil quality, organic carbon, and total nitrogen
Long-term studies allow for quantification of the effects of crop production practices, such as tillage and crop rotation, on soil quality and soil C and N stores. In two experiments at Ridgetown, ON, we evaluated the long-term (11 and 15 yr) effect of tillage system and crop rotation on soil quality via the Cornell Soil Health Assessment (CSHA) at 0 15 cm and soil organic C (SOC) and total N at 5-, 10-, and 20-cm increments to 120 cm depth. The CSHA soil quality score and SOC and total N were higher with no-till(NT) than fall moldboard plough with spring cultivation (conventional tillage, CT) and rotations with winter wheat[soybean-winter wheat (S-W) and soybean-winter wheat-corn (S-W-C)] compared with rotations without winter wheat.In both long-term trials, NT had ca. 21 Mg ha-1 more or 14% higher SOC than CT in the 0- to 100-cm soil profile, a trend which contrasts previous research in eastern Canada. Thus, the two long-term trial results at Ridgetown suggest that to improve soil quality and storage of C and N, growers on clay loam soil in southwestern Ontario should consider adopting NT production practices and including winter wheat in the rotation.