Distribution of soil carbon and microbial biomass in arable soils under different tillage regimes
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Sun, B., Hallett, P.D., Caul, S. et al. Plant Soil (2011) 338: 17. doi:10.1007/s11104-010-0459-2
- 900 Downloads
We have measured total soil organic carbon (SOC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and microbial lipid contents (as indices of microbial biomass and community structure), and their distributions to 60 cm depth in soils from replicated medium-term (2003–2008) experimental arable plots subject to different tillage regimes in Scotland. The treatments were zero tillage (ZT), minimum tillage (MT; cultivation to 7 cm), the conventional tillage (CT) practice of ploughing to 20 cm, and deep ploughing (DP) to 40 cm depth. In the 0–30 cm depth range, SOC content (corrected for bulk density differences between tillage treatments) was greatest under ZT and MT, but over 0–60 cm depth the SOC contents of these treatments were similar to the CT and DP treatments. DOC concentrations declined with increasing depth in ZT and MT above 20 cm, but there were no significant differences with depth in the CT and DP treatments. Beneath 20 cm, there was little change in DOC concentration with depth for all treatments, although for the MT treatment, there was less DOC beneath the depth of cultivation. The total microbial biomass decreased with increasing depth over the 0–60 cm range in the ZT and MT treatments, whereas it decreased with depth only below 30–40 cm in the CT and DP treatments. The microbial biomass was significantly different only between 0–5 cm in the ZT, CT and DP treatments, but not for other depths between all treatments. The bacterial biomass was greater in the ZT treatment than in MT, CT and DP near the soil surface, but not significantly different over the whole profile (0–60 cm). The fungal biomass decreased with depth in the ZT and MT treatments over the whole 0–60 cm depth range, whereas it decreased with depth only below 20 cm in the CT and DP treatments.