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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2014, Article ID 703460, 7 pages
Research Article

Crop Diversity Effects on Near-Surface Soil Condition under Dryland Agriculture

Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 459, Mandan, ND 58554-0459, USA

Received 7 February 2014; Accepted 14 July 2014; Published 22 July 2014

Academic Editor: Keith Smettem

Copyright © 2014 Mark A. Liebig et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Unprecedented changes in agricultural land use throughout the northern Great Plains of North America have highlighted the need to better understand the role of crop diversity to affect ecosystem services derived from soil. This study sought to determine the effect of four no-till cropping systems differing in rotation length and crop diversity on near-surface (0 to 10 cm) soil properties. Cropping system treatments included small grain-fallow (SG-F) and three continuously cropped rotations (3 yr, 5 yr, and Dynamic) located in south-central North Dakota, USA. Soil pH was lower in the 3 yr rotation (5.17) compared to the Dynamic (5.51) and SG-F (5.55) rotations . Among cropping system treatments, 5 yr and Dynamic rotations possessed significantly greater soil organic C (SOC) and total N (mean = 26.3 Mg C ha−1, 2.5 Mg N ha−1) compared to the 3 yr (22.7 Mg C ha−1, 2.2 Mg N ha−1) and SG-F (19.9 Mg C ha−1, 2.0 Mg N ha−1) rotations . Comparison of SOC measured in this study to baseline values at the research site prior to the establishment of treatments revealed only the 5 yr and Dynamic rotations increased SOC over time. The results of this study suggest that a diverse portfolio of crops is necessary to minimize soil acidification and increase SOC.