Title: Influence of tillage, residue management, and crop rotation on soil microbial biomass and catabolic diversity
Authors: Govaerts, Bram ×
Mezzalama, M
Unno, Y
Sayre, KD
Luna-Guido, M
Vanherck, Katrien
Dendooven, L
Deckers, Jozef A. #
Issue Date: Mar-2007
Publisher: Elsevier Science B. V.
Series Title: Applied Soil Ecology vol:37 issue:1-2 pages:18-30
Abstract: The densely populated, intensively cropped subtropical highlands of the world have agricultural
sustainability problems from soil erosion and fertility decline. In 1991, the International
Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) initiated a long-term field
experiment at its semi-arid highland experiment station in Mexico (2240 masl; 19.318N,
98.508W; Cumulic Phaeozem) to investigate the long-termeffects of tillage/seeding practices,
crop rotations, and crop residue management on maize and wheat grown under rainfed
conditions. Soil ecology status contributes to agricultural system sustainability, and evaluations
were made to determine the effect of different management practices on soil microbial
biomass (SMB) (substrate-induced respiration (SIR) and chloroform fumigation incubation
(CFI)) and micro-flora physiological and catabolic diversity (BIOLOGTM ecoplate well system).
SMB-C (CFI, SIR) was significantly and respectively 1.2 and 1.3 times higher for residue
retention (average 387mg C kg1
dry soil and 515 mg C kg1
dry soil, respectively) compared
to residue removal. SMB-C (CFI) was significantly higher for wheat (369mg C kg1
dry soil)
compared to maize (319mg C kg1
dry soil). SMB-N (CFI) was significantly 1.3 times higher for
residue retention (average 28mg N kg1
dry soil) compared to residue removal. The average
well color development (AWCD) obtained by the BIOLOGTM ecoplate essay indicated there
were large differences in the catabolic capability of soil microbial communities after 15 years
of contrasting management practices. While maize and wheat rotation under conventional
tillage with residue retention showed a significantly higher overall AWCD value compared to
the other treatments, AWCD ofmaize with zero tillage and residue removal was significantly
lower than in the other treatments. AWCD was significantly higher for residue retention
compared to residue removal and for wheat as compared to maize. For maize, the management
practices were divided into two groups; zero tillage with residue removal was separate
from all other treatments. For wheat, conventional tillage was separate from all zero tillage
treatments. This study suggests that in the target area, a cropping system that includes
zero tillage, crop rotation, and crop residue retention can increase overall biomass
and micro-flora activity and diversity compared with common farming practices. In
the long term, zero tillage combined with residue retention creates conditions favourable for the development of antagonists and predators, and fosters a new ecological
stability. Zero tillage without residue retention is an unsustainable practice that leads to poor
soil health in the long run.
ISSN: 0929-1393
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Division Soil and Water Management
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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