Pedosphere 31(3): 405--412, 2021
ISSN 1002-0160/CN 32-1315/P
©2021 Soil Science Society of China
Published by Elsevier B.V. and Science Press
Earthworm contributions to soil nitrogen supply in corn-soybean agroecosystems in Quebec, Canada
Zhor ABAIL1,2, Joann K. WHALEN2
1National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA), Kenitra B.P. 257 (Morocco)
2Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9 (Canada)
ABSTRACT
      Accurately quantifying the soil nitrogen (N) supply in crop fields is essential for enabling environmentally sustainable and economically profitable crop production. It requires using field-based methods to account for the contribution of soil biota, including earthworms, to N mineralization in temperate agroecosystems. The direct contribution of earthworms to the soil N cycle is the N they release throughout their life and after death, and it can be estimated using the secondary production method. This study was conducted in 2014 and 2015 in two adjacent fields with annual corn-soybean rotation in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, Canada. The cumulative biomass of Aporrectodea spp. in two no-till corn-soybean agroecosystems was determined, and the direct N flux from these earthworms was estimated during the corn and soybean phases of the rotation. Secondary production was estimated by sampling earthworms biweekly during April-June and September-November and inferring the change in earthworm biomass between sampling dates using a size frequency calculation. The N flux was calculated as the sum of the N released through excretion, during periods when earthworms were active, and from mortality. The secondary production of the Aporrectodea population was estimated to be 8-43 g ash-free dry weight m-2 year-1, and the N flux was 22-105 kg N ha-1 year-1. The N flux was higher at the early vegetative growth stage, which is a period of high N demand for corn. These findings suggest that refining the N fertilization recommendation by accounting for soil N supplied by earthworms could potentially reduce fertilizer costs and environmental N losses.
Key Words:  nitrogen excretion,nitrogen flux,nitrogen release,secondary production,size frequency method
Citation: Abail Z, Whalen J K. 2021. Earthworm contributions to soil nitrogen supply in corn-soybean agroecosystems in Quebec, Canada. Pedosphere. 31(3): 405-412.
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