A Decade Plus of Monoculture Wheat Compared to Wheat/Legume Pastures – Long-term Effects of Management Practices on Some Soil Physicochemical and Microbial Properties in the Winter Rainfall Region of South Africa
With the ever-increasing demand for food and fibre by the rising human population, the quest for sustainable agriculture has intensified. Monoculture has been discovered to be unsustainable and to have a negative effect on the soil’s ability to grow food and fibre. In 2010, we published the results of a four-year study in the wheat-growing region of the Western Cape, South Africa, in which we compared the effects of monoculture wheat versus wheat in a legume/pasture rotation on soil physicochemical characteristics and culturable microbial populations. The site was revisited in 2019 to assess the long-term impact of the two management systems on these parameters. Biolog EcoplatesTM is used to assess aggregate stability, active carbon levels, microbial activity, and carbon substrate utilisation in the soil. The amounts of organic carbon, boron, sulphur, and phosphorous in the soil, as well as soil moisture on the day of sampling, were all measured. Carbon substrate consumption trends in 2019 were found to be substantially different from those observed in 2006. The various management systems were clearly differentiated when the variables evaluated in 2019 were analysed. Surprisingly, the monoculture system had higher substrate usage. Can the weed infestation that occurred be considered, this may be due to the likely higher plant diversity and related root exudates of these systems. In order to achieve sustainable agriculture and healthy soils, more long-term research is needed.
Author (s) Details
Directorate Plant Sciences, Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Elsenburg, South Africa.
Agricultural Research Council – Biometry, Private Bag X5013, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa.
Department of Microbiology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa.
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