Biochemical signatures reveal positive effects of conservation tillage on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi but not on saprotrophic fungi and bacteria

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Since tillage can reduce the amount of organic C stored in soils, the use of conservation tillage practices, which exclude soil inversion, or include it less frequently, is often promoted. Soil microorganisms are closely linked to soil organic C (SOC), and they are assumed to respond quicker to management changes than SOC. Using two Swedish long-term tillage experiments, our aim was to determine whether (i) continuous conservation tillage (harrowing, H) increase microbial biomass (indicated by fatty acid signatures) compared to plowing (P), and if occasionally tilled soil (HP) was more like H or P. Also, the aim was to determine whether (ii) crop residue management has different effects on microbial biomass depending on tillage management, and whether (iii) conservation tillage and residue return increase SOC. We found that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) were stimulated by the H treatment compared to P treatment in the upper soil layer, and that occasional plowing resulted in intermediate amounts of AMF. The amount of microbial saprotrophs, on the other hand, was not affected by tillage treatment, and neither was the SOC concentration. Whether crop residues were returned in the autumn or not, had no direct effect on the microbial saprotrophs or the SOC after the winter, but crop residue removal stimulated AMF close to the surface in the P treatment. Although more research is needed to fully understand agricultural tillage and residue management effects on SOC dynamic, our study suggests that reducing or omitting plowing influence soil microbes, but does not necessarily result in more SOC.


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TidskriftApplied Soil Ecology
StatusPublished - 2021 jan 1
Peer review utfördJa