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Impact of Cover Crops and Poultry Litter on Selected Soil Properties and Yield in Dryland Soybean Production

Soil biological properties are important for the stabilization and preservation of a good soil structure. Management practices can affect the diversity and population of microorganisms, which could beneficially change soil properties and promote a more sustainable dryland crop production. This study was established near Pontotoc, MS, USA (34°07′ N, 88°59′ W) on an Atwood silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, semiactive, thermic Typic Paleudalf) to evaluate the impacts of cover crops, planting dates and fertilizer sources (poultry litter, inorganic fertilizer and no fertilizer) on selected biologically related soil properties in a no-tillage, dryland soybean production. Soil analyses included total carbon and nitrogen, permanganate oxidizable carbon (POXC), easily extractable glomalin-related soil protein (EE-GRSP), water stable aggregate (WSA) and soil pH. Cover crop production and soybean yield were also determined. The results indicated that the fertilizer source had an impact on total nitrogen, EE-GRSP and soybean yield. Total N was 6% higher with poultry litter at the early planting date compared to no fertilizer (control) (p < 0.0018) and at the late planting date, when total N and EE-GRSP were increased by 11% and 13%, respectively, with poultry litter compared to no fertilizer. Additionally, soil pH was reduced by 0.25 units in the poultry litter-amended treatment. Soybean yield was increased by 68% and 51% in early-planted soybean and 42% and 40% in late-planted soybean with poultry litter and inorganic fertilizer, respectively, compared to no fertilizer. This study revealed that biological soil properties and soybean yield were influenced by poultry litter application. The results showed no significant effects of cover crops over the short time period of the study.

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