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Environments 2015, 2(3), 358-384; doi:10.3390/environments2030358

Effects of Conservation Agriculture and Fertilization on Soil Microbial Diversity and Activity

Agricultural Research Council-Plant Protection Research Institute, Soil Microbiology Laboratory, Private Bag X134, Queenswood, Pretoria 0121, South Africa
Agricultural Research Council-Institute for Soil, Climate and Water, Private Bag X79, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Amir Kassam, Saidi Mkomwa and Yu-Pin Lin
Received: 30 March 2015 / Revised: 22 June 2015 / Accepted: 1 July 2015 / Published: 13 July 2015
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Soil microbial communities perform critical functions in ecosystem processes. These functions can be used to assess the impact of agricultural practices on sustainable crop production. In this five-year study, the effect of various agricultural practices on soil microbial diversity and activity was investigated in a summer rainfall area under South African dryland conditions. Microbial diversity and activity were measured in the 0–15 cm layer of a field trial consisting of two fertilizer levels, three cropping systems, and two tillage systems. Using the Shannon–Weaver and Evenness diversity indices, soil microbial species richness and abundance were measured. Microbial enzymatic activities: β-glucosidase, phosphatase and urease, were used to evaluate ecosystem functioning. Cluster analysis revealed a shift in soil microbial community diversity and activity over time. Microbial diversity and activity were higher under no-till than conventional tillage. Fertilizer levels seemed to play a minor role in determining microbial diversity and activity, whereas the cropping systems played a more important role in determining the activity of soil microbial communities. Conservation agriculture yielded the highest soil microbial diversity and activity in diversified cropping systems under no-till. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil microbial metabolic diversity; enzymatic activity; conservation agriculture; soil quality soil microbial metabolic diversity; enzymatic activity; conservation agriculture; soil quality

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Habig, J.; Swanepoel, C. Effects of Conservation Agriculture and Fertilization on Soil Microbial Diversity and Activity. Environments 2015, 2, 358-384.

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