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Differences in soil enzyme activities, microbial community structure and short-term nitrogen mineralisation resulting from farm management history and organic matter amendments

Stark, Christine H.E. and Condron, Leo M. and O'Callaghan, Maureen and Stewart, Alison and Di, Hong Jie (2008) Differences in soil enzyme activities, microbial community structure and short-term nitrogen mineralisation resulting from farm management history and organic matter amendments. Soli biology and biochemistry, 40 (6). pp. 1352-1363. ISSN 0038-0717

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Abstract

Changes in soil microbial biomass, enzyme activities, microbial community structure and nitrogen (N) dynamics resulting from organic matter amendments were determined in soils with different management histories to gain better understanding of the effects of long- and short-term management practices on soil microbial properties and key soil processes. Two soils that had been under either long-term organic or conventional management and that varied in microbial biomass and enzyme activity levels but had similar fertility levels were amended with organic material (dried lupin residue, Lupinus angustifolius L.) at amounts equivalent to 0, 4 and 8 t dry matter lupin ha−1. Microbial biomass C and N, arginine deaminase activity, fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis, dehydrogenase enzyme activity and gross N mineralisation were measured in intervals over an 81-day period. The community structure of eubacteria and actinomycetes was examined using PCR–DGGE of 16S rDNA fragments. Results suggested that no direct relationships existed between microbial community structure, enzyme activities and N mineralisation. Microbial biomass and activity changed as a result of lupin amendment whereas the microbial community structure was more strongly influenced by farm management history. The addition of 4 t ha−1 of lupin was sufficient to stimulate the microbial community in both soils, resulting in microbial biomass growth and increased enzyme activities and N mineralisation regardless of past management. Amendment with 8 t lupin ha−1 did not result in an increase proportional to the extra amount added; levels of soil microbial properties were only 1.1–1.7 times higher than in the 4 t ha−1 treatment. Microbial community structure differed significantly between the two soils, while no changes were detected in response to lupin amendment at either level during the short-term incubation. Correlation analyses for each treatment separately, however, revealed differences that were inconsistent with results obtained for soil biological properties suggesting that differences might exist in the structure or physiological properties of a microbial component that was not assessed in this study.

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