Plant and Soil

, Volume 291, Issue 1–2, pp 311–321 | Cite as

Organic N and particulate organic matter fractions in organic and conventional farming systems with a history of manure application

  • M. M. Wander
  • W. Yun
  • W. A. Goldstein
  • S. Aref
  • S. A. Khan
Original Paper


Indicators of soil fertility are needed for the effective management of organic farming systems. Sustainable management hinges upon our gaining an improved understanding of C and N dynamics. The influence of cropping systems and amendments applied in the Lakeland Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial on total hydrolyzable organic N (THN) fractions and particulate organic matter (POM) was investigated after a decade in a conventional cash grain system (Conv) of continuous maize amended with inorganic fertilizer, an organic cash-grain system (Org-CG) that relied on legume N, and an organic animal-based system (Org-AN) that included alfalfa and manure additions. Maize yields had consistently ranked Org-CG < Conv < Org-AN. The THN and amino acid-N (AA-N) contents were ranked Org-AN > Org-CG > Conv. Amino sugar-N (AS-N) contents, which reflect microbially derived N, did not differ among systems and concentrations were quite high (346.5 mg AS-N/kg soil in the 0–50 cm depth). This, and soil variability were attributed to the sites’ history of manure application. The amount (1.3 g POM-C/kg soil) and proportion (≈7.5% of total SOC) of POM-C were quite low and did not differ among systems. Failure to accumulate SOC or POM in these soils, even under organic management, is attributed to rapid C decay and/or limited root growth. An N rate study was added the fall before samples were taken and N addition did increase yield in the Conv and Org-CG systems despite evidence of soil N surplus. This suggests that either amino N is unavailable to plants or that root N acquisition is limited by other constraints. Low POM-C contents accompanied by high AS-N and AA-N levels reveal an imbalance in these soils which are likely to be C limited. Based on this, we conclude excess N has prevented use of organic practices from enhancing soil quality at this site.


Amino acids Amino sugars Organic and biodynamic farming Particulate organic matter Organic N Plant available N 



Amino acid-N


Amino sugar-N


Particulate organic matter


Soil organic carbon


Soil organic matter


Total hydrolyzable N


Total N


  1. Accoe F, Boeckx P, Busschaert J, Hofman G, Van Cleemput O (2004) Gross N transformation rates and net N mineralisation rates related to the C and N contents of soil organic matter fractions in grassland soils of different age. Soil Biol Biochem 36:2075–2087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amelung W, Kimble JM, Samson-Liebig S, Follett RF (2001) Restoration of microbial residues in soils of the conservation reserve program. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65:1704–1709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aoyama M, Angers DA, N’Dayegamiye A (1999) Particulate and mineral-associated organic matter in water-stable aggregates as affected by mineral fertilizer and manure applications. Can J Soil Sci 79:295–302Google Scholar
  4. Bittman S, Forge TA, Kowalenko CG (2005) Response of the bacterial and fungal biomass in a grassland soil to multi-year applications of dairy manure slurry and fertilizer. Soil Biol Biochem 37:613–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campbell CA, Schnitzer M, Lafond GP, Zentner RP, Knipfel JE (1991) Thirty-year crop rotations and management practices effects on soil and amino nitrogen. J Soil Sci 168:489–500Google Scholar
  6. Carpenter-Boggs L, Kennedy AC, Reganold JP (2000) Organic and biodynamic management: effects on soil biology. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64(5):1651–1659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter MR (2002) Soil quality for sustainable land management: organic matter and aggregation interactions that maintain soil functions. Agron J 94:38–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chantigny MH, Angers DA, Prevost D, Vezina LP, Chalifour FP (1997) Soil aggregation and fungal and bacterial biomass under annual and perennial cropping systems. Soil Sci Soc Am J 61:262–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cormack WF, Shepherd M, Wilson DW (2003) Legume species and management for stockless organic farming. Biol Agric Hort 21(4):383–398Google Scholar
  10. Delate K (2002) Using an agroecological approach to farming systems research. Horttechnology 12:345–354Google Scholar
  11. De Ruiter PC, Van Veen JA, Moore JC, Brussard L, Hunt HW (1993) Calculation of nitrogen mineralization in soil foodwebs. Plant Soil 157:263–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drinkwater LE (2002) Cropping systems research: reconsidering agricultural experimental approaches. Horttechnology 12:355–361Google Scholar
  13. Eltun R, Bordheim O (1999) Yield results during the first eight years crop rotation of the Apelsvoll cropping system experiment. In: Olesen JE, Eltun R, Gooding MJ, Jensen ES, Köpke U (eds) Designing and testing crop rotations for organic farming. DARCOF Report No. 1, 1999, 79–89Google Scholar
  14. Fortuna A, Harwood RR, Paul EA (2003) The effects of compost and crop rotations on carbon turnover and the particulate organic matter fraction. Soil Sci 168:434–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ginting D, Kessavalou A, Eghball B, Doran JW (2003) Greenhouse gas emissions and soil indicators for years after manure and compost applications. JEQ 32:23–32PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Greenfield LG (2001) The origin and nature of organic nitrogen in soil as assessed by acidic and alkaline hydrolysis. Eur J Soil Sci 52:575–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haynes RJ (2005) Labile organic matter fractions as central components of the quality of agricultural soils: an overview. Adv Agron 85:221–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. IFOAM(2002) NORMS IFOAM basic standards for organic production and processing. IFAOM, Victoria CanadaGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelling KA, Bundy LG, Combs SM, Peters JB (1998) Soil test recommendations for field, vegetable, and fruit crops. U.W. Extension, Cooperative Extension Publishing, Madison WIGoogle Scholar
  20. Khan SA, Mulvaney RL, Hoeft RG (2001) A simple soil test for detecting sites that are nonresponsive to nitrogen fertilization. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65(6):1751–1760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kuzyakov Y, Friedel JK, Stahr K (2000) Review of mechanisms and quantification of priming effects. Soil Biol Biochem 32(11–12):1485–1498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marriott EE, Wander MM (2006) Total and labile soil organic matter in organic farming systems at long-term trials. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:950–959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Millner PD, Ringer CE, Maas JL (2004) Suppression of strawberry root disease with animal manure composts. Compost Sci Util 12:298–307Google Scholar
  24. Mueller JP, Barbercheck ME, Bell M, Brownie C, Creamer NG, Hitt A, Hu S, King L, Linker HM, Louws FJ, Marlow S, Marra M, Raczkowski CW, Susko DJ, Wagger MG (2002) Development and implementation of a long-term agricultural systems study: challenges and opportunities. Hortech 12:362–368Google Scholar
  25. Mulvaney RL, Khan SA (2001) Diffusion methods to determine different forms of nitrogen in soil hydrolysates. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65:1284–1292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mulvaney RL, Khan SA, Hoeft RG, Brown HM (2001) A soil organic nitrogen fraction that reduces the need for nitrogen fertilization. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65:1164–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Osterhaus J, Bundy L, Andaski T (2005) Evaluation of the Illinois soil nitrogen test for corn production in Wisconsin. In: Hedtche J, Posner J (eds) The Wisconsin Integrated Cropping System Trial Tenth Report 2003–2004. pp 35–44 Scholar
  28. Posner JL, Casler MD, Baldock JO (1995) The Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial: combining agroecology with production agronomy. Am J Alt Agric 10:98–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Russell AE, Laird DA, Mallarino AP (2006) Nitrogen fertilization and cropping system impacts on soil quality in Midwest Mollisols. Soil Sci Soc Am J 70:249–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. SAS Institute (2000) SAS User’s Guide. SAS Inst., Cary, NCGoogle Scholar
  31. Scheller E, Raupp J (2005) Amino acid and soil organic matter content of topsoil in a long term trial with farmyard manure and mineral fertilizers. Biol Agric Hort 22:379–397Google Scholar
  32. Schimel JP, Weintraub MN (2003) The implications of exoenzyme activity on microbial carbon and nitrogen limitation in soil: a theoretical model. Soil Biol Biochem 35:549–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Scullion J, Neale S, Philipps L (2002) Comparisons of earthworm populations and cast properties in conventional and organic arable rotations. Soil Use Soil Manage 18:293–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shannon D, Sen AM, Johnson DB (2002) A comparative study of the microbiology of soils managed under organic and conventional regimes. Soil Use Soil Manage 18:274–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sorensen P (1998) Effects of storage time and straw content of cattle slurry on the mineralization of nitrogen and carbon in soil. Biol Fertil Soils 27(1):85–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sorensen P (2004) Immobilisation, remineralisation and residual effects in subsequent crops of dairy cattle slurry nitrogen compared to mineral fertiliser nitrogen. Plant Soil 267(1–2):285–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stenger R, Barkle GF, Burgess CP (2001) Mineralization and immobilization of C and N from dairy farm effluent (DFE) and glucose plus ammonium chloride solution in three grassland topsoils. Soil Biol Biochem 33:7–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tessier L, Gregorich EG, Topp E (1998) Spatial variability of soil microbial biomass measured by the fumigation extraction method, and K-EC as affected by depth and manure application. Soil Biol Biochem 30:1369–1377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards (USDA NOS) (2001) http:/ Scholar
  40. VandenBygaart AJ (2006) Monitoring soil organic carbon stock changes in agricultural landscapes: issues and a proposed approach. Can J Soil Sci 86:451–463Google Scholar
  41. Wander MM (2004) Soil organic matter fractions and their relevance to soil function. In: Magdoff F, Weil R (eds) Advances in agroecology. CRC pp. 67–102Google Scholar
  42. Watson CA, Oborn I, Eriksen J, Edwards AC (2005) Perspectives on nutrient management in mixed farming systems. Soil Use Manage 21:132–140Google Scholar
  43. Wilding LP, Drees LR, Nordt LC (2001) Spatial variability: enhancing the mean estimate of organic and inorganic carbon in a sampling unit. In: Lal R, Kimble JM, Follett RF, Stewart BA (eds) Assessment Methods for Soil Carbon. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, pp. 69–86Google Scholar
  44. Willson TC, Paul EA, Harwood RR (2001) Biologically active soil organic matter fractions in sustainable cropping systems. Appl Soil Ecol 16:63–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial Fifth (1995), Sixth (1996), Eight (2000) and Tenth (2004) Technical Reports. Wisconsin Extension ServiceGoogle Scholar
  46. Zhang X, Amelung W, Yuan Y, Zech W (1998) Amino sugar signature of particle-size fractions in soils of the native prairie as affected by climate. Soil Sci 163:220–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Wander
    • 1
  • W. Yun
    • 1
  • W. A. Goldstein
    • 2
  • S. Aref
    • 3
  • S. A. Khan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Michael Fields Agricultural InstituteEast TroyUSA
  3. 3.Department of StatisticsVirginia Polytechnic InstituteBlacksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations