Organic Agriculture

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 19–30 | Cite as

Impact of organic and conventional peach and apple production practices on soil microbial populations and plant nutrients

  • Ramesh R. PokharelEmail author
  • Rick Zimmerman


This work expects to supplement information on soil biological processes, particularly for fruit production systems in a semiarid region, by comparing soil microbial diversity and density, and nutrient concentration in soil as well as plant tissues in organic and conventional production systems for different varieties of apple and peach. Organic and conventional practices were compared by taking soil samples and analyzing soil microbial populations and plant and soil nutrients using several laboratory procedures. Significantly higher active and total fungal biomass, flagellate, and Actinobacteria populations and plant nutrients, P and Cu in plant tissues and OM, P, and S in soils were observed in organic compared to the conventional practices, irrespective of crops and varieties. In peach, protozoa and nematode populations were significantly higher in organic than in conventional soils, but not in apple. Organic fruit production practices harbored both greater microbial activity and higher concentrations of some plant and soil nutrients and are anticipated to promote better soil health and productivity than conventional practices. However, introduction and/or enhancement of certain microbes, especially mycorrhizae in both production systems, expected to increase soil health and productivity, are suggested. Use of ranges of microbial population to estimate soil health and management strategy is proposed.


Nematodes Bacteria Fungi Flagellates Actinobacteria Plant nutrients 



The author appreciates the financial support from the Western Colorado Research Center for study, previous researchers for the establishment of these orchard blocks, and Gaye Williams for the initial review of the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Maryland Department of AgricultureAnnapolisUSA
  2. 2.Zimmerman Pork FarmHotchkissUSA

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