The effect of crop rotation on soil health in the north-western Free State region, South Africa

Short communications

The effect of crop rotation on soil health in the north-western Free State region, South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of Plant and Soil
Volume 40 , issue 4-5 , 2023 , pages: 254–261
DOI: 10.1080/02571862.2023.2282504
Author(s): Melanie de Bruyn University of the Free State, South Africa , Andre Nel University of the Free State, South Africa , Johan van Niekerk Independent research agronomist,

Abstract

Soil health is an important aspect of sustainable agriculture. By maintaining soil health, crop yields can be consistently successful without negatively affecting the environment. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects that different cropping systems have on soil health in the north-western Free State region. The cropping systems focused on maize production, with soybean and cover crop included as rotational crops and monitored for three consecutive seasons. Soil samples were taken seasonally and their physical, chemical and biological properties, as well as the subsequent soil health score, were measured using the Haney Soil Health Test (HSHT). Results from the HSHT were statistically analysed and showed that there was no statistically significant interaction effect between cropping systems and season on soil properties, nor on the subsequent soil health score. These findings suggest that soybean and cover crop rotations with maize have the potential to naturally maintain soil health in a condition similar to those subjected to an artificially fertilised monoculture of maize. In addition, season variation influenced soil health irrespective of cropping system. Therefore, including soybean and cover crops in cropping systems with maize can be a means of promoting sustainable agriculture in the north-western Free State region, when seasonal variation and inherent soil properties are considered.

Get new issue alerts for South African Journal of Plant and Soil