Soil quality variables in organically and conventionally cultivated field sites
Soil Biology & Biochemistry
This study aimed to answer the following questions (a) which of the soil variables (chemical, biological, enzyme activities and potential metabolic profile based on the Biolog method) could be used as indicators reflecting differences in soil quality between organically and conventionally managed asparagus fields, (b) how the duration of organic management affects these soil variables and (c) in what extent the soil quality in organic fields is comparable to that in hedgerows. The study included four organically cultivated fields which differed in the time they enter organic treatment: 6 years (O6), 5 years (o5), 3 years (O3) and 2 years (O2), the closest to them hedgerow (Ho), a conventionally managed field (CF) and its adjacent hedgerow (He). Among the chemical and biological variables, those contributing for most to the discrimination of the organic and conventional fields were mainly microbial biomass C (MBC) and N (MBN) and secondly variables related to N-cycle (NO(3), N organic, rate of N mineralization). MBC and MBN were higher in organic and conventional areas, respectively, reflecting differences in the structure of their microbial communities. The chemical and biological variables did not differ among O3, O5 and O6 fields, while low values of organic N, rate of N mineralization and extractable P was recorded in O2 area. The enzyme activities of amidohydrolases (L-asparaginase, L-glutaminase, urease) and phosphatases (alkaline and acid phosphatase) were by far higher in organic areas than in the conventional one. The activities of amidohydrolases and alkaline phosphatase changed in a similar way, exhibiting higher values in O3 and O5 areas while between the oldest (O6) and the newest (O2) area no differences were recorded. While the suppress of enzyme activities in O2 was related to low inputs due to transition, the negative feedback between supply of N and P and activities in O6 was a possible explanation. The activity of acid phosphatase increased from the newest to oldest organic areas. The potential functional diversity and substrate evenness did not differ among sampling areas. Differences between areas were recorded only in relation to the carbohydrates' consumption. The soil quality of hedgerows seems to be completely different than that of the arable land in terms of all studied variables. Also, significant differences were recorded between the two hedgerows, a fact that could be related to the different management practices applied in the neighboring fields. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Author(s): Monokrousos, N; Papatheodorou, EM; Diamantopoulos, JD; Stamou, GP
Journal: Soil Biology & Biochemistry