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Impacts of Switchgrass-Loblolly Pine Intercropping on Soil Physical Properties of a Drained Forest

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 58(6): 1573-1583. (doi: 10.13031/trans.58.11238) @2015
Authors:   Julian F. Cacho, Mohamed A. Youssef, George M. Chescheir, R. Wayne Skaggs, Zakiya H. Leggett, Eric B. Sucre, Jami E. Nettles, Consuelo Arellano
Keywords:   Bioenergy, Biomass, Drainage, Loblolly pine, North Carolina, Soil physical properties, Switchgrass.

Abstract. Intercropping switchgrass ( L.) with managed loblolly pine ( L.) has been proposed as an alternative source of bioenergy feedstock that does not require conversion of agricultural cropland. Different management practices may alter soil physical properties (SPP), which could influence productivity, hydrologic and biogeochemical processes. Therefore, we investigated the effect of switchgrass-loblolly pine intercropping on the SPP of a poorly drained forest soil in eastern North Carolina using three management regimes: young loblolly pine stand (PINE), switchgrass-pine intercropping (PSWITCH), and a 38-year-old loblolly pine stand (REF). Measurements of SPP were conducted before and after the third annual harvesting operation using intact soil cores taken from three points within each of three replicated plots and at three depths: 0-15 cm, 15-30 cm, and 30-45 cm. Pre- and post-harvest values of SPP in PSWITCH were not significantly different. Compared to PINE, changes in bulk density and in both total porosity and saturated hydraulic conductivity in PSWITCH were significant only in the top 30 and 15 cm of soil, respectively. Volume drained and drainable porosity in PSWITCH decreased significantly at water table depths ≤45 cm. Cumulative effects of V-shearing for switchgrass seedbed preparation and the first and second harvest operations may have caused structural changes to the surface soil layer in PSWITCH that subsequently resulted in the measured differences in SPP between PSWITCH and PINE. We suggest that soil disturbance should be minimized during field operations to lessen the adverse effects on SPP, and models used to quantify impacts of management practices and land use change on the hydrology and biogeochemistry of managed forests should consider SPP changes caused by management regimes.

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