The role of tree leaf mulch and nitrogen fertilizer on turfgrass soil quality
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The influence of tree leaf amendment and N fertilization on soil quality in turfgrass environments was evaluated. Our objective was to assess changes in soil quality after additions of leaf materials and N fertilization by monitoring soil chemical and physical parameters, microbial biomass and soil enzymes. Established perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) plots were amended annually with maple (Acer spp.) leaves at three different rates (0, 2240, and 4480 kg ha–1 year–1) and treated with three nitrogen rates (0, 63, and 126 kg N ha–1 year–1). Tree leaf mulching did not significantly affect water infiltration or bulk density. However, trends in the data suggest increased infiltration with increasing leaf application rate. Tree leaf mulching increased total soil C and N at 0–1.3 cm depth but not at 1.3–9.0 cm. Extracted microbial phospholipid, an indicator of microbial biomass size, ranged from 28 to 68 nmol phospholipid g–1 soil at the 1.3–9.0 cm depth. The activity of β-glucosidase estimated on samples from 0–1.3 cm and 1.3–9.0 cm depths, and dehydrogenase activity estimated on samples from 1.3–9.0 cm were significantly increased by leaf mulching and N fertilizer application. Changes in microbial community composition, as indicated by phospholipid fatty acid methyl ester analysis, appear to be due to seasonal variations and did not reflect changes due to N or leaf amendment treatments. There were no negative effects of tree leaf mulching into turfgrass and early data suggest this practice will improve soil chemical, physical, and biological structure.
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