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  • Author or Editor: K.R. Brye x
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Orchards established on weathered, acidic mineral soils in the Ozark Highlands must be managed to meet tree nutritional requirements. However, a common characteristic of Ozark Highland soils is a relatively low soil organic matter (SOM) concentration, a condition that can have detrimental effects on orchard productivity. Organic orchard management poses specific challenges to managing competitive under-tree vegetation and supplying appropriate supplemental nutrition to maintain tree growth and cropping. In Mar. 2006, an experimental apple orchard was established to evaluate the effects of under tree, in-row groundcover management system (i.e., shredded paper, wood chips, municipal green compost, and mow-blow), and nutrient source (i.e., non-fertilized control, composted poultry litter, and pelletized organic commercial fertilizer) on SOM, carbon (C), and nitrogen (N) concentration, and soil C and N sequestration over time in an organically managed orchard in the Ozark Highlands region of northwest Arkansas. Soil organic matter, total C, and total N concentrations (soil weight basis) and contents (area basis) in the top 7.5 cm increased in all groundcover management systems from 2006 to 2011. The greatest differences were observed with municipal green compost treatments. Significant interactions between groundcover management treatment and nutrient source were only observed for SOM concentration, whereas nutrient source did not affect total C and total N concentrations or contents. Soil C sequestration rates were 0.9, 1.0, and 2.8 Mg·ha−1 per year under the shredded paper, wood chip, and green compost treatments, respectively, whereas total C content did not change over time under the mow-blow treatment. The green compost treatment was the only treatment that had significant total N sequestration occur (0.25 Mg nitrogen/ha/year). Results of this study indicate that organic cultural methods can significantly augment near-surface soil C and N contents, which will likely increase productivity, of apple orchards in the Ozark Highlands over a relatively short period time after establishment. This study has implications for orchards in similar soils or environmental circumstance and for both organic and conventional management systems.

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