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Data from: Early impacts of cover crop selection on soil biological parameters during a transition to organic agriculture

Cite this dataset

Ellman-Stortz, Leah et al. (2025). Data from: Early impacts of cover crop selection on soil biological parameters during a transition to organic agriculture [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.bcc2fqzmj

Abstract

Although Texas is not widely known for organic production, it is responsible for most organic peanut production in the US. When managed effectively, this can be a lucrative practice due to consumer demands. However, farmers pursuing organic management must undergo a three-year transition period to obtain United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification, which is often associated with depressed yields. The objective of this study was to measure the impact of organic management and cover crop selection on biological indicators of soil health during the second year of transitioning to an organic cotton-peanut rotation in West Texas. We conducted a field study at 2 locations, and soil health indicators including in situ respiration, carbon mineralization, enzyme activities, and phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) were measured.

The use of a cover crop resulted in generally greater biological activities compared to the fallow after only one cover crop rotation, representing early elevated biological activities under plots treated with a cover crop. However, cover crop species selection typically did not affect soil biological parameters. Cover crop use also did not contribute to yield losses when compared to a fallow treatment. When comparing organic management to conventional, both sites experienced elevated PLFA counts under organic management. Importantly, results indicated that although reduced peanut yields could be expected under transitional organic management, this was not cover crop species-specific, nor was it a guarantee. Given the economic risk of organic management for farmers, this study will benefit producers deciding whether to pursue organic production and cover cropping.  

README: Data from: Early Impacts of Cover Crop Selection on Soil Biological Parameters During a Transition to Organic Agriculture

Description of the data and file structure

Tabs labelled “ConventionalOnly” include data solely from conventionally managed plots. Tabs labelled “OrgCon” contain data from both organically managed and conventionally managed plots for split-plot analysis.

Missing or uncollected data are depicted with “.”

Variable information:

-        Obs = number of observations

-        Location = site location

                        -   Lubb = Lubbock, TX

                        -   Vern = Vernon, TX

-        Event = sampling event (April, May, June, July, August, September, and November; labelled numerically)

-        Depth = sampling depth

                           -   1 = 0-10 cm

                           -   2 = 10-20 cm

-        Plot_no = plot number

-        Rep = replicate number

-        Trt = treatment

                            -   2 = organic, rye cover crop

                            -   4 = organic, radish cover crop

                            -   6 = organic, rye/vetch cover crop

                            -   8 = organic, rye/vetch/radish cover crop

                            -   10 = conventional, fallow

                            -   11 = conventional, rye cover crop

                            -   12 = conventional, radish cover crop

                            -   13 = conventional, rye/vetch cover crop

                            -   14 = conventional, rye/vetch/radish cover crop

-        Orgcon = plot management (organic or conventional)

                             -   O = organic

                             -   C = conventional

-        Cover = cover crop type

                             -   Rye = rye cover crop

                             -   Rad = radish cover crop

                             -   RV = rye/vetch cover crop

                             -   RVR = rye/vetch/radish cover crop

                             -   F = fallow

-        Soilmoist = percent soil moisture

-        Soiltemp = soil temperature (Celsius)

-        CO2 = CO2 flux (mg CO2-C m-2 hr-1)

-        Cumulative CO2 = Cumulative CO2 fluxes by end of season (kg CO2-C ha-1)

-        Cc_biomass = cover crop aboveground biomass (kg ha-1)

-        MinC = mineralizable carbon (mg CO2 kg-1 soil)

-        BG = β-glucosidase (µg p-nitrophenol g-1 soil hr-1)

-        NAG = N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase (µg p-nitrophenol g-1 soil hr-1)

-        Yield = peanut yield (kg ha-1)

-        PLFA data (in pmol/g soil)

                           -   AMF = AMF fungi

                           -   GramNeg = gram negative bacteria

                           -   Actino = actinomycetes

                           -   TotalPLFA = total PLFAs

                           -   NumberPLFA = number of PLFAs

                           -   Fungi_Bacti = Fungi:Bacteria ratio

                           -   Preditor_Prey = Preditor:Prey ratio

                           -   GramPos_GramNeg = gram positive:gram negative ratio

                           -   Sat_Unsat = Saturated:Unsaturated ratio

                           -   Mono_Poly = Mono:Poly ratio

                           -   GNeg_Stress = (cy17:0 + cy19:0):(16:1ω7c + 18:1ω7c) ratio

-        Nodules = peanut nodules

                            -   Total_count = nodule counts (count cm-2)

                            -   Perc_total = % effective nodules

Methods

Please refer to "Early Impacts of Cover Crop Selection on Soil Biological Parameters During a Transition to Organic Agriculture" for methodology. 

Funding

United States Department of Agriculture, Award: LS19-313, Southern SARE

Texas A&M University System