Addition of a volcanic rockdust to soils has no observable effects on plant yield and nutrient status or on soil microbial activity
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Background and Aims
Rising costs and pressure on supplies of commercial mineral fertilizers and increasing markets for organically produced foods and feeds have led to a growing interest in soil amendments to supply plant nutrients. Rockdust is a by-product of quarrying and its effectiveness to supply plants with nutrients has been a contested issue and there have been no assessments of its effect on soil biota other than plants. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of a commercially-available volcanic rockdust application on crop growth and element concentrations for a wide range of macro and microelements and the response of soil microbial communities to rockdust due to the potential alteration in soil mineralogy.
A three-year controlled outdoor-growing experiment was conducted on three different soil types with two wheat cultivars in the first year following rockdust application and with forage species in the third year.
Our results show that the tested rockdust had no positive or negative effect on plant growth or nutrient composition. In addition, the microbial response to added substrates, a sensitive measure of changes in soil environment, were unaltered by the rockdust.
As the rockdust had no nutrient or toxic effect it can probably be considered as an inert material which at least causes no harm but equally has no demonstrable ecological or agricultural benefit.
KeywordsMicrobial communities Perennial ryegrass Red clover Soil amendment Substrate induced respiration Trace elements
We thank Prof. Håkan Fogelfors and his research team for setting up this experiment from the beginning and let us continue with it. The laboratory staff in the department of soil and environment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and The James Hutton Institute is acknowledged. This research was funded by the Swedish Research Council for the Environment (Formas), with support from the SLU.
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