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Mathieu Lamandé

Challenges of conservation agriculture practices on silty soils. Effects on soil pore and gas transport characteristics in North-eastern Italy

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Soil air exchange is one of the most important soil functions that directly impacts on crop productivity and environment. Generally, conservation agriculture (CA) practices are expected to provide improved soil aeration but contrasting texture-related effects were found in the literature. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of CA practices on gas transport characteristics in the silty soils of the Veneto Region (North-Eastern Italy). In 2010, a field experiment comparing CA practices (no-tillage, cover crop and residues retention) to conventional intensive tillage (IT) system was established in four farms located in the Veneto low plain. In fall 2015, 144 undisturbed 100 cm3 soil cores where collected at two different layers (3–6.5 cm and 20–23.5 cm) and analysed for air-filled porosity, air permeability, gas diffusivity and soil structure indices derived. Gas transport measurements highlighted low transmission properties of the silty soils independently from agronomic management. Both air permeability and relative gas diffusivity showed poor aerated conditions being generally<20 μm2 and<0.005, respectively. CA treatments affected the transmission properties only in the coarsest soil studied causing a reduction of air permeability in the deeper layer and relative gas diffusivity in both layers. The CA-induced reduction was related to the tillage effect on soil bulk density and suggested that CA not only affected the air-filled porosity but also continuity and tortuosity characteristics. The poor structural stability of Veneto soils, particularly the poor soil organic carbon content, could prevent the exploitation of CA practices firstly on soil structure and in turn on gas exchanges. For these reasons further studies elucidating the mechanisms improving soil structural conditions for silty soils as those examined in this study are required.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoil & Tillage Research
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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