Integrated crop-livestock versus conventional systems: use of soil indicators to detect short-term changes during seasonal variation


ABSTRACT Soil quality indicators may have different seasonal trends during the year. The hypothesis of this study was that sowing maize and marandu palisadegrass with the presence of grazing animals might cause short-term changes in soil indicator responses. We compared four intercropping techniques: ICLS-1: maize plus marandu palisadegrass sown simultaneously, without herbicide; ICLS-2: maize plus marandu palisadegrass sown simultaneously, with herbicide; ICLS-3: maize plus marandu palisadegrass in lagged sowing (i.e., marandu palisadegrass sown 20 days after maize sowing); ICLS-4: maize plus marandu palisadegrass sown simultaneously (palisadegrass on the rows and inter-rows, with herbicide). Two control treatments in monoculture (i.e., grass and maize monocultures) represented the conventional systems. The soil was sampled three times over a one-year period, for the evaluation of carbon and nitrogen fractions as affected by seasonal variability. Results indicated that ICLS-1 and ICLS-4 enhanced soil quality more quickly during the seasonal variation. The ICLS-2 negatively affected microbial biomass (22%), resulting in reduced labile carbon (43%), carbon management index (33%), and potentially mineralizable nitrogen (20%). Labile carbon and the carbon management index were more sensitive and efficient indicators for verifying soil quality changes in the short-term. Results indicated that there is large variability in these soil indicators during the annual cycle, and further studies are needed to verify the effects of the tested systems on different soil nitrogen fractions and how they affect available nitrogen in the short-term. However, potentially mineralizable nitrogen can provide positive insights for short-term changes in the soil.



organic carbon, organic nitrogen, potentially mineralizable nitrogen, Zea mays L., Brachiaria brizantha cv. marandu