The use of large undisturbed cores to assess soil quality-yield relationships in the greenhouse
Large undisturbed cores were taken from different landscape positions (divergent shoulders, DSH, and convergent footslopes, CFS) at two sites in the Black soil zone. The soils are classified as belonging to the Oxbow association and have been cultivated for 15 and 82 years. The cores were used in a greenhouse experiment to study the effect of soil quality on yield of spring wheat (var. Katepwa) at three levels of simulated growing season precipitation: low (123 mm season-1), mid (189 mm season-1), and high (332 mm season-1). Grain yields in the DSH cores increased with increasing precipitation for both the 15- and 82-year soils. Moreover, the 15-year DSH cores out-yielded their 82-year counterparts by 50, 76, and 85% at the low, mid, and high water levels, respectively. Cores from the CFS positions were watered only at the mid-water level. Grain yields in the 15- and 82-year CFS cores and the 15-year DSH cores were not significantly different (P < 0.05). The results of this study indicate that soil quality is a relatively minor factor when water is limiting but assumes a much greater role in years of normal or above normal growing season precipitation. These initial results also suggest that large cores are a feasible and cost-effective means of studying soil-plant relationships in the greenhouse or growth chamber.
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