Beneficial soil profile differences associated with tropical grass pastures on sodic texture contrast soils in Northern New South Wales

Robert Banks (Corresponding Author), Laura Wendling, Kaye Basford, Anthony Ringrose-Voase, Vera Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Volunteer native pastures on widespread sodic texture contrast soils in northern New South Wales slopes and plains are known for their limited agricultural production. Fertilised tropical grass pastures on these soils are reported to have much increased pasture production, deeper, more abundant root mass and greater soil profile moisture storage. The subsoil physical differences between native and tropical grass pastures are not well understood. This observational study compared root abundance, soil structure and soil physical parameters (dispersion, bulk density, porosity and pore distribution) in sodic texture contrast soils under native and adjacent, well established and fertilised tropical pastures in a 14-year chronosequence. The physical differences observed may have contributed to improved soil water storage reported by other authors. Fourteen years after establishment, mean root abundance was significantly lower in soils under native pasture and greater in the tropical grass pasture system with 4600 and 8400 m of roots m -3respectively. Dispersion values were high in native pastures but soils under tropical pastures had to be physically worked to cause dispersion. Bulk density under native pasture was significantly higher than in tropical grass pastures by 0.08 g cm -3 at 0-10 cm and by 0.2 g cm -3 in the upper B horizons. Total soil porosity of topsoils and upper B horizons was consequently lower in native than in tropical grass pasture. Tropical grass pasture upper B horizons had a three-fold greater macroporosity (pores > 30 -m), than under native pastures. This is equivalent to significantly greater potential water flow through stable macropores in dense sodic B horizons in tropical pastures. These findings indicate that pasture system selection and management positively affects deep soil structural properties which promote pasture productivity. The study contributes to a better understanding of mechanisms of published deeper water storage in tropical grass pasture systems on these normally low production soils.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberSR19140
Pages (from-to)207-218
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Research
Issue number2
Early online date4 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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