• Recovery of Vegetative Cover and Soil Organic Matter During Revegetation of Abandoned Farmland in a Semiarid Climate

      Dormaar, J. F.; Smoliak, S. (Society for Range Management, 1985-11-01)
      Much of the farmland in the Canadian Prairie region has been abandoned over the years and allowed to revert to weedy cover and eventually to grassland. While some of the changes in vegetation during plant succession have been documented, limited information is available on changes in soil characteristics. The purpose of this study was to assess the vegetative cover and soil transformation under similar semiarid climatic conditions with an annual precipitation of about 310 mm on 3 sites abandoned in 1925, 1927, and 1950 as compared to adjacent native range. Total C and N, water-stable aggregates between 1.0 and 5.0 mm, and polysaccharide content increased, while chelating resin-extractable C, humic acid/fulvic acid ratios, caloric content of the rootmass, and dehydrogenase activity decreased in the successional sequence. Nevertheless, more than 55 years will be required to allow soil to return to native range standards under moderate grazing by livestock. Revegetated range may have to be subjected to lighter grazing pressures than usual to allow the vegetation to continue to increase its rootmass and thus the soil chemical properties. A hypothesis to explain changes in root- and top-mass ratios with time on the basis of the quality of soil nitrogen has been advanced.