The Rhizosphere Dynamics Lab | OARDC, Wooster, OH | sprunger.29@osu.edu

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Investigating fine root production and below-ground food webs in agricultural systems

The 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that sustainable agricultural practices can aid in reversing the impacts of climate change on land degradation, reduce food related vulnerabilities, and counteract increased carbon dioxide emissions through carbon sequestration. Two forms of sustainable agriculture are rotational diversity and no-till, which can promote soil structure through aggregation, increase fungal plant interactions, reduce erosion, increase soil moisture, decrease the need for fertilizer, and sustain higher total organic nitrogen and carbon. Although no-till and rotational diversity have benefits, there is a lack of research on the affect these agricultural management practices have on below-ground carbon dynamics and soil food web structure and function. Gaining an understanding of fine root production in annual no-till and crop rotation systems can aid in a maximization of the amount of carbon stored in the soil, and further the understanding of carbon flux within belowground agricultural systems. In addition, the research being conducted aims to understand soil food web structure and function to improve sustainable agricultural practices and investigate how soil nutrients are processed and allocated.

The research being conducted attempts to aid the understanding of fine root production and soil food web structure and function in agricultural systems with varying tillage intensities and cropping systems. Conducted on two long-term no-till trials (Triplet Van Doren and Northwest Agricultural Research Station) this study aims to achieve the following goals:

  1. Determine the effect that different tillage intensities and rotational diversity have on nematode community structure, microbial communities, and enzyme activity

  2. Identify how soil texture can affect nematode community structure, microbial communities, and enzyme activity

  3. Identify the structure and function of each agricultural system by exploring the link between nematode community structure, microbial communities, and enzyme activity.

  4. Determine if soil food web structure and function are indicative of soil health indicators.

  5. Determine the effect of tillage intensity and rotational diversity on fine root quantity and quality

  6. Estimate root turnover from fine root quantity and quality

  7. Determine how fine root production and senesce impacts soil health indicators