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Effects of past and current crop management on soil microbial biomass and activity

Stark, Christine H.E. and Condron, Leo M. and Stewart, Alison and Di, Hong Jie and O'Callaghan, Maureen (2006) Effects of past and current crop management on soil microbial biomass and activity. ISSN 0178-2762

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Abstract

As soil biota is influenced by a number of factors, including land use and management techniques, changing management practices could have significant effects on the soil microbial properties and processes. An experiment was conducted to investigate differences in soil microbiological properties caused by long- and short-term management practices. Intact monolith lysimeters (0.2 m2 surface area) were taken from two sites of the same soil type that had been under long-term organic or conventional crop management and were then subjected to the same 2½-year crop rotation (winter barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), maize (Zea mais L.), lupin (Lupinus angustifolius L.) rape (Brassica napus L. ssp. oleifera)) and two fertiliser regimes (following common organic and conventional practices). Soil samples were taken after crop harvest and analysed for microbial biomass C and N, microbial activity (fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis, arginine deaminase activity, dehydrogenase activity) and total C and N. The incorporation of the green manure stimulated growth and activity of the microbial communities in soils of both management histories. Soil microbial properties did not show any differences between organically and conventionally fertilised soils, indicating that crop rotation and plant type had a larger influence on the microbial biomass and enzyme activities than fertilisation. Initial differences in microbial biomass declined, while the effects of farm management history were still evident in enzyme activities and total C and N. Links between enzyme activities and microbial biomass C varied depending on treatment indicating differences in microbial community composition.

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