In most agricultural systems, the raindrop-induced breakdown of soil aggregates is the initial process of surface soil erosion and redistribution of soil organic matter. The physicochemical differences between the liberated and mobilized material and the residual raindrop-stable soil aggregates can be a critical factor controlling landscape-level heterogeneity in soil biogeochemical reactivity. Using an artificial rainfall simulator with soils from southeastern Iowa, we investigated the role of management intensity on the chemical characteristics of soil particles liberated through raindrop-induced breakdown of both small aggregates (0.25–2 mm; SMAGG) and large aggregates (>2 mm; LGAGG). At all sites LGAGG exhibited lower stability to raindrop energy than SMAGG. Both soil aggregate size classes from a restored prairie and an agricultural site using reduced ridge tillage exhibited higher raindrop stability than conventionally tilled sites. In the restored prairie, the chemical composition (i.e. lignin, substituted fatty acids, SOC and TN, δ15N values) of raindrop-liberated particles was nearly indistinguishable from raindrop-stable aggregates. Among all tilled sites, with the exception of SOC in the conservation tillage site, the raindrop stable particles had relatively higher concentration of measured chemical components versus raindrop-liberated particles. Additionally, the liberated particles in all tilled sites contained higher concentration of oxidized lignin phenols, a lower proportion of cinnamyl to vanillyl lignin, and, as evidenced by the δ15N values, a trend toward a higher proportion of microbially-processed nitrogen, indicating more decomposed microbial processed organic matter. These results are important for understanding the biogeochemical impacts and resulting spatial heterogeneity of raindrop liberated and transported soil particles among landscapes with different management intensity and efforts toward soil conservation.
Hou, T., Berry, T.D., Singh, S., Hughes, M., Tong, Y., Papanicolaou, A.N., Wacha, K.M., Wilson, C.G., Chaubey, I., and Filley, T.R. (2018): Control of tillage disturbance on the chemistry and proportion of raindrop-liberated particles from soil aggregates. Geoderma. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2018.05.013
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.