In­flu­ence of mould­board plough and ro­ta­ry har­row til­la­ge on mi­cro­bi­al bio­mass and nut­ri­ent stocks in two long-term ex­pe­ri­ments on loess de­ri­ved Lu­vi­sols


Applied Soil Ecology 46, 405-412


The nutrient-specific effects of tillage on microbial activity (basal respiration), microbial biomass (C, N, P, S) indices and the fungal cell-membrane component ergosterol were examined in two long-term experiments on loess derived Luvisols. A mouldboard plough (30cm tillage depth) treatment was compared with a rotary harrow (8cm tillage depth) treatment over a period of approximately 40 years. The rotary harrow treatment led to a significant 8% increase in the mean stocks of soil organic C, 6% of total N and 4% of total P at 0–30cm depth compared with the plough treatment, but had no main effect on the stocks of total S. The tillage effects were identical at both sites, but the differences between the sites of the two experiments were usually stronger than those between the two tillage treatments. The rotary harrow treatment led to a significant increase in the mean stocks of microbial biomass C (+18%), N (+25%), and P (+32%) and to a significant decrease in the stocks of ergosterol (−26%) at 0–30cm depth, but had no main effect on the stocks of microbial biomass S or on the mean basal respiration rate. The mean microbial biomass C/N (6.4) and C/P (25) ratios were not affected by the tillage treatments. In contrast, the microbial biomass C/S ratio was significantly increased from 34 to 43 and the ergosterol-to-microbial biomass C ratio significantly decreased from 0.20% to 0.13% in the rotary harrow in comparison with the plough treatment. The microbial biomass C-to-soil organic C ratio varied around 2.1% in the plough treatment and declined from 2.6% at 0–10cm depth to 2.0 at 20–30cm depth in the rotary harrow treatment. The metabolic quotient qCO2 revealed exactly the inverse relationships with depth and treatment to the microbial biomass C-to-soil organic C ratio. Rotary harrow management caused a reduction in the microbial turnover in combination with an improved microbial substrate use efficiency and a lower contribution of saprotrophic fungi to the soil microbial community. This contrasts the view reported elsewhere and points to the need for more information on tillage-induced shifts within the fungal community in arable soils.