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Influence of organic and mineral amendments on soil microbial properties and processes

Stark, Christine H.E. and Condron, Leo M. and Stewart, Alison and Di, Hong Jie and O'Callaghan, Maureen (2007) Influence of organic and mineral amendments on soil microbial properties and processes. Applied soil ecology, 35 (1). pp. 79-93. ISSN 0929-1393

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Abstract

Microbial diversity in soils is considered important for maintaining sustainability of agricultural production systems. However, the links between microbial diversity and ecosystem processes are not well understood. This study was designed to gain better understanding of the effects of short-term management practices on the microbial community and how changes in the microbial community affect key soil processes. The effects of different forms of nitrogen (N) on soil biology and N dynamics was determined in two soils with organic and conventional management histories that varied in soil microbial properties but had the same fertility. The soils were amended with equal amounts of N (100 kg ha−1) in organic (lupin, Lupinus angustifolius L.) and mineral form (urea), respectively. Over a 91-day period, microbial biomass C and N, dehydrogenase enzyme activity, community structure of pseudomondas (sensu stricto), actinomycetes and α proteobacteria (by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) following PCR amplification of 16S rDNA fragments) and N mineralisation were measured. Lupin amendment resulted in a two- to five-fold increase in microbial biomass and enzyme activity, while these parameters did not differ significantly between the urea and control treatments. The PCR–DGGE analysis showed that the addition of mineral and organic compounds had an influence on the microbial community composition in the short term (up to 10 days) but the effects were not sustained over the 91-day incubation period. Microbial community structure was strongly influenced by the presence or lack of substrate, while the type of amendment (organic or mineral) had an effect on microbial biomass size and activity. These findings show that the addition of green manures improved soil biology by increasing microbial biomass and activity irrespective of management history, that no direct relationship existed among microbial structure, enzyme activity and N mineralisation, and that microbial community structure (by PCR–DGGE) was more strongly influenced by inherent soil and environmental factors than by short-term management practices.

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