Influence of organic amendments on growth, yield and quality of wheat and on soil properties during transition to organic production.

Abstract

A transition period of at least two years is required for annual crops before the produce may be certified as organically grown. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of the three organic amendments on yield and quality of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and on soil properties during transition to organic production. The organic amendments were composted farmyard manure (FYMC), vermicompost and lantana (Lantana spp. L.) compost applied to soil at four application rates (60, 90, 120 and 150 kg N ha-1). The grain yield of wheat in all the treatments involving organic amendments was markedly lower (36-65% and 23-54% less in the first and second year of transition, respectively) compared with the mineral fertilizer treatment. For the organic treatments applied at equivalent N rates, grain yield was higher for FYMC treatment closely followed by vermicompost. In the first year of transition, protein content of wheat grain was higher (85.9 g kg-1) for mineral fertilizer treatment whereas in the second year, there were no significant differences among the mineral fertilizer treatment and the highest application rate (150 kg N ha-1) of three organic amendments. The grain P and K contents were, however, significantly higher for the treatments involving organic amendments than their mineral fertilizer counterpart in both years. Application of organic amendments, irrespective of source and rate, greatly lowered bulk density (1.14-1.25 Mg m-3), and enhanced pH (6.0-6.5) and oxidizable organic carbon (13-18.8 g kg-1) of soil compared with mineral fertilizer treatment after two-year transition period. Mineral fertilized plots, however, had higher levels of available N and P than plots with organic amendments. All the treatments involving organic amendments, particularly at higher application rates, enhanced soil microbial activities of dehydrogenase, β-glucosidase, urease and phosphatase compared with the mineral fertilizer and unamended check treatments. We conclude that the application rate of 120 and 150 kg N ha-1 of all the three sources of organic amendments improved soil properties. There was, however, a 23-65% reduction in wheat yield during the two years of transition to organic production.

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