Conclusions

Results obtained within the MESCOSAGR project indicate that the proposed innovative soil practices aimed to sequester carbon in soil can be used in southern Europe environmental conditions without affecting crop yields, provided that an appropriate management is adopted.

In particular, it was found that reduced tillage intensity did not affect maize growth in the two contrasting Italian site environments selected for the field trials. Effects of compost application on biomass production were more complex, since crop performances were greatly different among sites and over the three experimental years. In a poorly aerated soil with small mineralization rates, a suppressive effect of compost on maize growth was observed, whereas soils with larger mineralization potential showed that compost can provide enough mineral nitrogen to sustain maize production up to the levels obtained with urea. A rate effect of compost was observed in the first year of application in soil where background fertility was low enough to prevent the masking of crop response to fertilization.

Green manure experiments with hairy vetch indicated that the rapid decomposition of such green residues allowed a crop performance similar to that of urea-treated soils.

The use of a synthetic water-soluble catalyst to promote increased chemical energy in SOM and, thus, carbon sequestration in soil, did not induce any change in wheat yield as compared to control plots. Moreover, we can exclude a reduction in N mineralization, possibly derived from an impeded microbial transformation of SOM, as it clearly arises from the unaltered crop yields.

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