Machinery-based farming operations used for perennial fruit crops often damage soils, particularly if the soil is wet and prone to compaction. We hypothesized that perennial vegetation growing in the interrows of orange orchards can mitigate the soil physical degradation from machinery traffic. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of different groundcover management systems on the soil physical quality indicators including the least limiting water range (LLWR). An experiment was started in 1993 in a Typic Paleudult to evaluate three groundcover management systems: Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) with mowing, perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi), and natural regrowth in which weeds were controlled by herbicide. The experimental design was randomized complete block with three replications. In May 2003, 216 undisturbed soil samples were collected at 0-0.15-m depths under and between wheel tracks in the orchard interrows. The soil bulk density, soil organic carbon content, resistance to penetration, soil water retention curve and soil resistance to penetration curve were determined in order to estimate the LLWR. The higher LLWR under wheel tracks in Bahia grass compared to perennial peanut or natural regrowth suggest that a better soil physical quality was achieved with Bahia grass.
organic carbon; soil compaction; bulk density; resistance to penetration; available water