Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 751–758 | Cite as

Effects of Cd, Zn, or both on soil microbial biomass and activity in a clay loam soil

  • Giancarlo Renella
  • Amar M. Chaudri
  • Céline M. Falloon
  • Loretta Landi
  • Paolo Nannipieri
  • Philip C. Brookes
Original Paper


We investigated Cd, Zn, and Cd + Zn toxicity to soil microbial biomass and activity, and indigenous Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii, in two near neutral pH clay loam soils, under long-term arable and grassland management, in a 6-month laboratory incubation, with a view to determining the causative metal. Both soils were amended with Cd- or Zn-enriched sewage sludge, to produce soils with total Cd concentrations at four times (12 mg Cd g−1 soil), and total Zn concentrations (300 mg Zn kg−1 soil) at the EU upper permitted limit. The additive effects of Cd plus Zn at these soil concentrations were also investigated. There were no significant differences in microbial biomass C (B C), biomass ninhydrin N (B N), ATP, or microbial respiration between the different treatments. Microbial metabolic quotient (defined as qCO2 = units of CO2–C evolved unit−1 biomass C unit−1 time) also did not differ significantly between treatments. However, the microbial maintenance energy (in this study defined as qCO2-to-μ ratio value, where μ is the growth rate) indicated that more energy was required for microbial synthesis in metal-rich sludge-treated soils (especially Zn) than in control sludge-treated soils. Indigenous R. leguminosarum bv. trifolii numbers were not significantly different between untreated and sludge-treated grassland soils after 24 weeks regardless of metal or metal concentrations. However, rhizobial numbers in the arable soils treated with metal-contaminated sludges decreased significantly (P < 0.05) compared to the untreated control and uncontaminated sludge-treated soils after 24 weeks. The order of decreasing toxicity to rhizobia in the arable soils was Zn > Cd > Cd + Zn.


Cadmium Zinc Toxicity Microbial biomass Activity Rhizobia 



Rothamsted Research receives grant-aided support from the Biological and Biotechnological Sciences Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giancarlo Renella
    • 1
  • Amar M. Chaudri
    • 2
  • Céline M. Falloon
    • 2
  • Loretta Landi
    • 1
  • Paolo Nannipieri
    • 1
  • Philip C. Brookes
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil Science and Plant NutritionUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Agriculture and Environment DivisionRothamsted ResearchHerts.UK

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