, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 217-230

Effects of moisture on soil microorganisms and nematodes: A field experiment

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The effects of soil moisture changes on bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes and changes in oxygen consumption were studied in a field experiment. In one plot the soil was drip-irrigated daily for 10 days, while an adjacent plot experienced one rainfall and was then allowed to dry out. Oxygen consumption was the parameter measured which responded most rapidly to changes in soil moisture content. Lengths of fluorescein diacetate-active hyphae paralleled oxygen consumption in both plots. Total hyphal length was not affected by one rainfall but increased from 700 mg−1 dry weight soil to more than 1,600 m in less than 10 days in the irrigated plot. In the rain plot, bacterial numbers doubled within 3 days and declined during the following period of drought. In the irrigated plot, numbers increased by 50% and then remained constant over the duration of the study. Only small changes in protozoan numbers were observed, with the exception of the last sampling date in the irrigated plot when large numbers of naked amoebae were recorded 2 days after a large natural rainfall. Nematode numbers, especially obligate root feeders, increased in both treatments. The increases were caused by decoiling rather than growth. The results indicate that fungal respiration was dominating, while bacteria, lacking a suitable source of energy, were less active, except for the first days.