Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 723–733 | Cite as

Short-term effects of organic and inorganic fertilizers on soil microbial community structure and function

A field study with sweet corn
  • Cristina LazcanoEmail author
  • María Gómez-Brandón
  • Pedro Revilla
  • Jorge Domínguez
Original Paper


A field study was carried out to analyze the short-term impacts of replacing mineral by organic fertilizers on the microbial and biochemical parameters relevant for soil fertility and crop yield. Three types of fertilization regimes were compared: (1) conventional fertilizer regime with inorganic fertilizer, and combined integrated fertilizer regimes in which 25 % of the nutrients were supplied by either (2) rabbit manure or (3) vermicompost. The effects on microbial community structure and function (phospholipid fatty acid [PLFA] profiles, bacterial growth, fungal growth, basal respiration, β-glucosidase, protease and phosphomonoesterase activities), soil biochemical properties (total C, dissolved organic carbon [DOC], N-NH4 +, N-NO3 , PO4, total K) and crop yield were investigated in the samples collected from the experimental soil at harvest, 3 months after addition of fertilizer. The integrated fertilizer regimes stimulated microbial growth, altered the structure of soil microbial community and increased enzyme activity relative to inorganic fertilization. Bacterial growth was particularly influenced by the type of fertilizer regime supplied, while fungal growth only responded to the amount of fertilizer provided. The use of manure produced a fast increase in the abundance of PLFA biomarkers for Gram-negative bacteria as compared to inorganic fertilizer. Nutrient supply and crop yield with organic fertilizers were maintained at similar levels to those obtained with inorganic fertilizer. The effects of the organic amendments were observed even when they involved a small portion of the total amount of nutrients supplied; thereby confirming that some of the beneficial effects of integrated fertilizer strategies may occur in the short term.


Vermicompost Manure Organic fertilizers Sustainable agriculture PLFAs Soil enzymes 



Cristina Lazcano is a recipient of an Ángeles Alvariño research fellowship from the Xunta de Galicia. María Gómez Brandón was financially supported by a postdoctoral research grant from the Fundación Alfonso Martín Escudero. This research was financially supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (CTM2009-08477). The authors are grateful to Louise E. Jackson and Luis Sampedro for comments and suggestions on the manuscript and Priyashiela Singh for assistance with the statistical analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina Lazcano
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • María Gómez-Brandón
    • 1
    • 3
  • Pedro Revilla
    • 4
  • Jorge Domínguez
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología y Biología AnimalUniversidad de VigoVigoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.Institute of MicrobiologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  4. 4.Misión Biológica de Galicia (CSIC)PontevedraSpain

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