Lesley Atwood, Natural Resources and Environment, University of New Hampshire, Lee, NH, Richard G. Smith, University of New Hampshire, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, David A. Mortensen, Plant Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA and Roger T. Koide, Department of Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Soil mesofauna contribute to desirable agroecosystem services including decomposition, soil carbon storage, and pest suppression; however, their populations can be negatively impacted by the intense disturbances and low crop plant diversity that are characteristic of most annual row crop systems. Soil functional zone management (SFZM) represents an alternative to conventional uniform soil management in that crop row and inter-row zones are managed with contrasting levels of soil disturbance. We hypothesized that a SFZM system (ridge-tillage) coupled with cover crops would have higher soil mesofauna abundance and diversity compared to a uniform tillage system (chisel plow) with no cover crops, due to the existence of relatively undisturbed in-row soil zones and the availability of diversified plant residue inputs. We quantified soil faunal communities in maize over two growing seasons (2013 and 2014) in a long-term field experiment that was initiated in 2011 at Rock Springs, PA. Experimental treatment factors included soil management (SFZM/ridge-tillage or chisel plow) and cover crops (winter rye or no cover crop). We used soil cores and litter bags filled with winter rye residue to sample the soil fauna community in both the crop row and inter-row zones at maize anthesis. Soil fauna were extracted from cores and litter using modified-Berlese funnels and identified to family using morphological characteristics. Our preliminary results from the 2013 growing season suggest that soil faunal species diversity and community composition differ significantly by zone regardless of management system (SFZM vs. chisel plow) or cover crop. Indicator species analysis identified a particularly strong association between Diplura (Family Campodeidae) and the crop row zone in the ridge-tillage system, suggesting the crop row in this SFZM system may act as a refuge for these important decomposer organisms.