Effects of animal manure application and crop plants upon size and activity of soil microbial biomass under organically grown spring barley
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Temporal behaviour of microbial biomass C, N and respiration was measured under barley crops in two experiments on successive years in a recently converted organic production system in Scotland. Soils were fertilised with farmyard manure or poultry manure. Control soils received no manure at the start of the growing season. The effects of plants was also investigated by maintaining fallow subplots. C-flush values approximately doubled over the growing season in both years of the trial, showing a decline to pre-sowing values between the two seasons. This occurred in all soils, whether manured or not, or planted or fallow. Manure tended to increase the C-flush in the 2nd year only. N-flush in the 2nd year showed no increase in planted control plots but did increase in fallow soils. Manures significantly increased the N-flush. Respiration rates were stimulated by the presence of plants. Respiration rates were measured from soils taken from the field at post-sowing, mid-season and post-harvest occasions and incubated under constant conditions for up to 1 year. Here there was evidence that the effects of sampling and adjusting the moisture status could be as great upon microbial activity as the addition of the manures. C-flush also showed a consistent and persistent increase in these incubated soils. This suggests that the fundamental C-supplying characteristics of these soils was such that the biomass was moving towards a new equilibrium value fuelled by the relatively recent introduction of the organic farming regime.
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