Soil Biology Volume 22, 2011, pp 25-42
Date: 08 Sep 2010

Role of Enzymes in Maintaining Soil Health

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Abstract

Soil enzymes are constantly playing vital roles for the maintenance of soil ecology and soil health. These enzymatic activities in the soil are mainly of microbial origin, being derived from intracellular, cell-associated or free enzymes. Therefore, microorganisms are acting as the indicators of soil health, as they have active effects on nutritional cycling, also affecting the physical and chemical properties of soil. Microorganisms respond quickly even to minute changes by changing their population and activities, and thus, can be used for soil health assessment. On the other hand, soil enzymes are the direct mediators for biological catabolism of soil organic and mineral components and they are often closely related to soil organic matters, soil physical properties, and microbial activities or biomass. They are the better indicators of soil health as changes of enzymes are much sooner than other parameters, thus providing early indications of changes in soil health. In addition, their activities can be used as the measures of microbial activity, soil productivity, and inhibiting effects of pollutants. The potential enzymes playing major roles in maintaining soil health are – amylase, arylsulphatase, β-glucosidase, cellulase, chitinase, dehydrogenase, phosphatase, protease, and urease. Deterioration of soil, and thereby soil health, is of concern for human, animal, and plant health because air, groundwater, and surface water consumed by humans can be adversely affected by mismanaged and contaminated soil.