Long-term effects of tillage intensity on the distribution of microbial biomass and activity in four arable field-sites across Europe
- 1University of Göttingen, Centre of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use, Göttingen, Germany
- 2University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Department of Environmental and Plant Protection, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
- 3University of Kassel, Department of Soil Biology and Plant Nutrition, Witzenhausen, Germany
Over the last decades, reduced tillage became more and more important as a suitable soil management practice. Moreover, reduced tillage is expected to promote a healthy and active soil life as a feature of sustainable agricultural. The determination of soil microbial biomass and microbial indices are suitable indicators for estimating soil quality. This study follows a regional approach and focusses at four different countries with varying environmental conditions at long-term experimental field-sites (LTE´s) across Europe. Soil microbial biomass carbon (SMB-C), the metabolic quotient (qCO2) and the ratio of SMB-C to soil organic carbon (SOC) were measured as microbial properties.
Our contribution to the ongoing discussion of the effectiveness of non-conventional tillage systems is (i) the comparison between conventional ploughing (CT) and minimum tillage (MT), (ii) the comparison of inversion vs. not inversion tillage at the same working depth, (iii) the comparison of ploughing vs. no-tillage (NT), (iv) the comparison between reduced tillage systems with each other (MT vs. NT).
We found a significant difference of SMB-C for CT and MT between 0 and 10 cm in Germany and Sweden, but no difference between tillage treatments for the sampled soil profile (0-30 cm). We highlight that tillage changed the vertical distribution of SMB-C, showing similar values among soil depths under CT and a depth gradient with decreasing values for MT.
The comparison of inversion vs. not inversion tillage at the same working depth in Romania showed no differences between CT and MT at all. This suggests that humus-rich soils seem to be more resistant to tillage-related disturbances. The working depth might have a greater impact for both, inversion and non-inversion tillage than the type of the tillage system itself.
For the comparison of CT and NT, we used the field-sites in Spain and Sweden. In Spain, NT was clearly of advantage for microbial biomass and activity, compared to CT. This was true for the whole sampled soil profile (0-30 cm) whereas in Sweden differences could only be detected between SMB-C levels in two soil depths. Our results indicate that the effect of tillage seems to be smaller in cold-temperate areas.
Comparing MT and NT in Sweden, we found no difference in SMB-C between these two forms of conservation tillage, neither in the first centimeters, nor in the whole sampled profile. Consequently, minimum tillage seems to be an alternative in cold and moist regions if no-tillage is not possible to apply without reducing soil quality or crop yields.
We conclude that even if minimum and no-tillage are generally beneficial for microorganisms, there is a big variance between the different forms of reduced tillage systems. Thus, statements cannot be made across different soils and machine types, but have to be made on a regional scale.
How to cite: Schmoock, I., Linsler, D., Sandor, M., Joergensen, R. G., and Potthoff, M.: Long-term effects of tillage intensity on the distribution of microbial biomass and activity in four arable field-sites across Europe, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-9043, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-9043, 2020.
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