Effects of Organic Soil Amendments on Soil Physiochemical and Crop Physiological Properties of Field Grown Corn (Zea mays) and Soybean (Glycine Max)
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The annual application of poultry litter, Rivanna biosolids compost, and Panorama yard waste compost at 100% agronomic nitrogen and 30 % agronomic nitrogen rates in the field study improved soil fertility and increased total organic and humified carbon contents relative to the inorganically fertilized and control treatments. The amended treatments had slightly greater plant available water contents (average 10.0 cm/15 cm) than the control (8.38 cm/15 cm). Leaf water potential measurements revealed that neither crop experienced water stress during the sampling season. Treatment differences in leaf antioxidant activity were only observed in corn. All corn plants that were fertilized with amendments supplying the cropâ s nitrogen needs, regardless of the source, had greater leaf nitrogen (+29%), chlorophyll (+33%), and protein contents (+37%), lower superoxide dismutase (-29%) and ascorbate peroxidase (-17%) activities, and lower malondialdehyde (-33%) contents relative to the control and low nitrogen treatments. There were no observed differences in catalase activity, which was likely due to the evolutionary advantage of C4 metabolism. Yield was strongly related to midseason leaf nitrogen contents (R2=0.87, p<0.0001) and not soil humified carbon (R2=0.02, p=0.0543). There were no observed treatment differences in soybean leaf physiology and metabolism. Differences, however, were observed over time. As the leaves senesced, leaf chlorophyll, protein, superoxide dismutase and catalase activities decreased, and the malondialdehyde content increased. Ascorbate peroxidase activity slightly increased with time. Catalase activity in soybean was primarily driven by the oxidation of glycolate, a product of photorespiration, and not the formation of reactive oxygen species in the chloroplasts. The organically amended treatments had higher yields (9-21% increase), greater protein contents (4-9% increase), and seed weights (5-14% increase) relative to the fertilizer and control treatments. It was concluded that differences in soybean yield and seed quality were due to non-nutritive benefits of the organic amendments and not available water or plant nutrition.
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