Erigeron annuus (L.) Pers., as a green manure for ameliorating soil exposed to acid rain in Southern China
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Background, aims, and scope Increasing soil acidification is a growing concern in southern China. The traditional green manures applied in the fields mostly comprise legumes that tend to accelerate soil acidification. Moreover, acid deposition can act as a source of nitrogen. Hence, we looked for new plant species that would enhance nutrient concentrations when used as green manure and would reduce soil acidity or at least not worsen it. Materials and methods We studied the use of Erigeron annuus (L.) Pers. for ameliorating acid soil in a pot experiment with simulated acid rain (SAR) treatments (pH 5.8 to 3.0) in an open area in Guangzhou City. The pots were divided into two groups named A and B groups. On day 0, pots of A group were filled with soil and planted with Erigeron annuus seedlings. Pots of B group were only filled with soil as the control. On day 40, seedlings of E. annuus were harvested and buried in the corresponding pots. On day 54, two seeds of Phaseolus vulgaris L. were sown in each pot in both groups. The growth and bean yield of P. vulgaris seedlings were then used to evaluate the effects of E. annuus on acid soil. Plant and/or soil samples were collected on days 0, 40, 54, and 150; corresponding parameters were measured. Results Results showed that E. annuus could maintain a good growth even on very acid soil. On day 40, the pH decreased significantly (P?<?0.0001) in the B group pots without E. annuus compared with the A group. On day 54, after E. annuus was buried as a manure, the soil pH of all A group treatments except the pH 4.0 treatment showed a significant increase compared to day 40 (P?<?0.01). At the same time, the application of E. annuus as a manure produced a significant increase of soil K and P (P?<?0.001), Ca (P?<?0.05), and Mg (P?<?0.001) concentrations of all A group SAR treatments compared to their B group counterparts (except control pots for Ca). The soil exchangeable K and available P concentration doubled, and Ca and Mg increased by around 25% in the presence of the E. annuus manure application. Discussion The higher soil pH in the A group than B group on the day 40 was due to a great absorption of NO3 - by the roots of E. annuus. The soil pH increase after E. annuus was applied to the soil of A group was attributed to the release of high amount of K, the mineralization of organic N, and the oxidation of organic acid anions. Nutrient increase in the A group after E. annuus application was mostly the result of the nutrient release during the residue decomposition. The amelioration of the soil was effective as demonstrated by the enhanced growth and bean yield of P. vulgaris seedlings on the manured soil compared to the seedlings grown on a control that was not manured. Conclusions E. annuus could maintain a good growth in the acid lateritic field soil. Cultivating this plant and applying it to the soil with a rate of 1.6 ton ha-1 doubled the soil K and P concentrations and increased soil exchangeable Ca and Mg concentrations by around 25%. This species would be a good green manure candidate for growing in the acid soils of southern China. Application of E. annuus also has beneficial effects on crop growth through reduced Al toxicity and cation leaching. Recommendations and perspectives Since E. annuus would improve soil pH and nutrient concentrations with minimum care, it is recommended for treating acid soils with poor yield whenever a low-cost solution is required.
Journal of Soils and Sediments
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