Quantifying cover crop effects on soil health and productivity
Stewart, Ryan D.
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The dataset presented here supports the research paper entitled "A calculator to quantify cover crop effects on soil health and productivity". Soil health (sometimes used synonymously with soil quality) is a concept that describes soil as a living system to sustain plants, animals, and human. Soil physical, chemical, and biological properties, along with their interactions, are required to quantify soil health. The use of cover crops in agricultural rotations may enhance soil health, yet there has been little progress in understanding how external factors such as climate, soil type, and agronomic practices affect soil and cash crop responses. In response, this dataset compiles measurements from 281 studies and provides an analysis of field-measured changes in 38 soil health indicators due to cover crop usage. Environmental and background indicators were also compiled to assess how climatic and management practices affect soil and cash crop responses to cover crops, with specific categories including climate type (tropical, arid, temperate, and continental), soil texture (coarse, medium, and fine), cover crop type (legume, grass, multi-species mixture, and other), and cash crop type (corn, soybean, wheat, vegetable, corn-soybean rotation, corn-soybean-wheat rotation, and other). An unbalanced analysis of variation was used to determine the hierarchy of most to least important factors that affected responsiveness of each soil health indicator. Based on the hierarchy structure, a soil health calculator was then developed to quantify the response of 13 parameters - erosion, runoff, weed suppression, soil aggregate stability, leaching, infiltration, microbial biomass carbon, soil bulk density, soil organic carbon, soil nitrogen, microbial biomass nitrogen, cash crop yield, and saturated hydraulic conductivity - to cover crops. The presented data in the calculator report the mean change in parameter values based on all combinations of climate, soil texture, cover crop type, and cash crop type. (c) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)