Crop residues exacerbate the negative effects of extreme flooding on soil quality

Antonio R. Sánchez-Rodríguez, Paul W. Hill, David R. Chadwick, Davey L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme flood events are predicted to have a negative impact on soil quality. Currently, there is a lack of information about the effect of agricultural practices on soil functioning and microbial processes under these events. We hypothesized that the impact of flooding on soil quality will be exacerbated when crop residues are present in the soil as they will induce more extreme anaerobicity. A spring extreme flood event (10 °C, 9 weeks) was simulated in mesocosms containing an arable sandy-loam soil low in nutrients. The main treatments were (1) with and without flooding and (2) with and without maize residue addition (8 Mg ha−1). We monitored changes in soil chemical quality indicators (e.g. pH, salinity, Fe3+, P, C, NH4 +, NO3 and organic N), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (CO2, CH4, N2O) and soil microbial community composition (PLFAs) during a prolonged flood period (9 weeks) and an 8-week “recovery” period after flooding. In comparison to the other treatments, flooding in the presence of crop residues resulted in a dramatic drop in soil redox potential. This was associated with the enhanced release of Fe and C into solution and an increase in CH4 emissions. In contrast, maize residues reduced potential nitrate losses and N2O emissions, possibly due to complete denitrification and microbial N immobilization. Both flooding and maize residues stimulated microbial growth and promoted a shift in microbial community composition. Following floodwater removal, most of the soil quality indicators returned to the levels of the control treatment within 5 weeks. After this short recovery phase, no major impact of flooding could be observed on plant growth (maize pot-grown). Overall, we conclude that both extreme flooding and management regime negatively impact upon a range of soil quality indicators (e.g. redox, GHG emissions); however, the soil showed high resilience and recovered quickly after floodwater removal. Further work is required to investigate the impact of repeated extreme flood events on soil quality and function over longer timescales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-765
Number of pages15
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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