Soil Quality Indicators as affected by Shallow Tillage in a Vineyard Grown in a Semiarid Mediterranean Environment
Laudicina, V.A.; Palazzolo, E.; Catania, P.; Vallone, M.; Garcia, A.D.; Badalucco, L.
Land Degradation and Development 28(3): 1038-1046
Within the Mediterranean basin, soil tillage enhances the mineralisation of soil organic matter. We assessed the short-term impact of shallow tillage [field cultivator (FC), rotary tiller (RT) and spading machine (SM)] on some soil quality indicators [bulk density, water-stable aggregates, total and labile organic C pools (microbial biomass and extractable organic C), soil respiration and related eco-physiological indexes] in a Sicilian vineyard. Also no tillage was included. We hypothesized that (i) RT and FC worsened soil quality indicators more than SM, and (ii) within the same tillage system, labile C pools, soil respiration and eco-physiological indexes will respond more efficiently than chemical and physical soil properties since the tillage starts. The experiment started at March 2009, and each tillage type was applied three times per year (March or April, May and June), with soil tilled up to 15-cm depth. Soil was sampled (0-15 and 15-30-cm depth) in March 2009, April 2010, May 2012 and June 2014. SM was very effective in preserving soil organic matter pool and in improving any monitored soil quality indicator, similarly to no tillage. By contrast, RT was the most deleterious machine as it worsened most investigated indicators. Such deleterious effects were due to drastic disruption of soil aggregates and consequent exposition of protected soil organic matter to further microbial mineralization. Labile organic C pools and microbial quotients were the most responsive soil parameters for assessing the impact of shallow tillage on soil quality, even in the short term (<5 years).