Special Issue "Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility"

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A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2011)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Les Copeland (Website)

Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Interests: agricultural chemistry and biochemistry; cereals; food grains

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The sustainability of agroecosystems depends on healthy soils. Although the biota comprise only a small fraction of soil mass, they play a crucial role in providing favourable conditions for plant growth. The microorganisms and micro-, meso- and macro-fauna that make up the soil biota are essential for soil fertility and the promotion of plant-soil interactions. Biological activity in soil is fundamental for plant growth: the biological nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur cycles increase the bioavailability of nutrients, and the deposition of organic carbon contributes to soil structure, which is important for reducing erosion and improving water movement and retention. Enzymes and metabolites released into the soil help to solubilise essential mineral nutrients, promote the decomposition of plant and animal remains, and catalyse the degradation of xenobiotics. For these reasons, biological diversity is widely used as an indicator of a functioning “life support” system that the soil represents. It is therefore appropriate that this first issue of the MDPI journal Agriculture is devoted to soil biology.

Prof. Dr. Les Copeland
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • soil biology
  • soil fertility
  • soil biota, soil mass, microbial biomass
  • microorganisms, micro-, meso- and macro-fauna
  • soil organic matter
  • biological nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur cycles, mineralization
  • bioavailability of nutrients
  • organic carbon contributes
  • plant-soil interactions
  • soil structure, erosion, water movement and retention
  • Enzymes and metabolites
  • xenobiotics degradation

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Low Soil Phosphorus Availability Increases Acid Phosphatases Activities and Affects P Partitioning in Nodules, Seeds and Rhizosphere of Phaseolus vulgaris
Agriculture 2012, 2(2), 139-153; doi:10.3390/agriculture2020139
Received: 9 April 2012 / Revised: 5 June 2012 / Accepted: 6 June 2012 / Published: 13 June 2012
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (1643 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The effect of phosphorus (P) deficiency on phosphatases activities in N2-fixing legumes has been widely studied in hydroponic culture. However, the response of acid phosphatase (APase) and phytase in rhizosphere, nodules and seeds of Phaseolus vulgaris to low soil’s P-availability [...] Read more.
The effect of phosphorus (P) deficiency on phosphatases activities in N2-fixing legumes has been widely studied in hydroponic culture. However, the response of acid phosphatase (APase) and phytase in rhizosphere, nodules and seeds of Phaseolus vulgaris to low soil’s P-availability is not yet fully understood. In this study, six genotypes of N2-fixing P. vulgaris were grown under contrasting soil P-availabilities; i.e., low (4.3 mg P kg−1) and sufficient (16.7 mg P kg−1) in the Haouz region of Morocco. At flowering and maturity stages, plants were harvested and analyzed for their phosphatases activities, growth and P content. Results show that, low P decreased nodulation, growth, P uptake and N accumulation in all the genotypes, but to a greater extent in the sensitive recombinant inbreed line 147. In addition, while seed P content was slightly reduced under low P soil; a higher P was noticed in the Flamingo and Contender large seeded-beans (6.15 to 7.11 mg g−1). In these latter genotypes, high APase and phytase activities in seeds and nodules were associated with a significant decline in rhizosphere’s available P. APase activity was mainly stimulated in nodules, whereas phytase activity was highly induced in seeds (77%). In conclusion, the variations of APase and phytase activities in nodules and seeds depend on genotype and can greatly influence the internal utilization of P, which might result in low P soil tolerance in N2-fixing legumes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)
Open AccessArticle Evaluation of Biofertilizers in Irrigated Rice: Effects on Grain Yield at Different Fertilizer Rates
Agriculture 2012, 2(1), 73-86; doi:10.3390/agriculture2010073
Received: 22 December 2011 / Revised: 23 February 2012 / Accepted: 28 February 2012 / Published: 14 March 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (259 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Biofertilizers are becoming increasingly popular in many countries and for many crops, but very few studies on their effect on grain yield have been conducted in rice. Therefore, we evaluated three different biofertilizers (based on Azospirillum, Trichoderma, or unidentified rhizobacteria) [...] Read more.
Biofertilizers are becoming increasingly popular in many countries and for many crops, but very few studies on their effect on grain yield have been conducted in rice. Therefore, we evaluated three different biofertilizers (based on Azospirillum, Trichoderma, or unidentified rhizobacteria) in the Philippines during four cropping seasons between 2009 and 2011, using four different fertilizer rates (100% of the recommended rate [RR], 50% RR, 25% RR, and no fertilizer as Control). The experiments were conducted under fully irrigated conditions in a typical lowland rice environment. Significant yield increases due to biofertilizer use were observed in all experimental seasons with the exception of the 2008/09 DS. However, the effect on rice grain yield varied between biofertilizers, seasons, and fertilizer treatments. In relative terms, the seasonal yield increase across fertilizer treatments was between 5% and 18% for the best biofertilizer (Azospirillum-based), but went up to 24% in individual treatments. Absolute grain yield increases due to biofertilizer were usually below 0.5 t·ha−1, corresponding to an estimated additional N uptake of less than 7.5 kg N ha−1. The biofertilizer effect on yield did not significantly interact with the inorganic fertilizer rate used but the best effects on grain yield were achieved at low to medium fertilizer rates. Nevertheless, positive effects of the biofertilizers even occurred at grain yields up to 5 t·ha−1. However, the trends in our results seem to indicate that biofertilizers might be most helpful in rainfed environments with limited inorganic fertilizer input. However, for use in these target environments, biofertilizers need to be evaluated under conditions with abiotic stresses typical of such systems such as drought, soil acidity, or low soil fertility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)
Open AccessArticle Sorption of Tannin and Related Phenolic Compounds and Effects on Extraction of Soluble-N in Soil Amended with Several Carbon Sources
Agriculture 2012, 2(1), 52-72; doi:10.3390/agriculture2010052
Received: 1 January 2012 / Revised: 18 February 2012 / Accepted: 21 February 2012 / Published: 27 February 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1251 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Some tannins sorb to soil and reduce soluble-N. However, we know little about how they interact with organic amendments in soil. Soil (0–5 cm) from plots, which were amended annually with various carbon substances, was treated with water (control) or solutions containing [...] Read more.
Some tannins sorb to soil and reduce soluble-N. However, we know little about how they interact with organic amendments in soil. Soil (0–5 cm) from plots, which were amended annually with various carbon substances, was treated with water (control) or solutions containing tannins or related phenolic subunits. Treatments included a proanthocyanidin, catechin, tannic acid, β-1,2,3,4,6-penta-O-galloyl-D-glucose (PGG), gallic acid, and methyl gallate. We applied solutions of each of these materials to soil and measured soluble-C and -N in supernatants after application and following extraction with hot water (16 h, 80 °C). Sorption was low for non-tannin phenolics, methyl gallate, gallic acid, and catechin, and unaffected by amendment. Sorption of tannins, proanthocyanidin, tannic acid, and PGG, was higher and greater in plots amended with biosolids or manure. Extraction of soluble-N was not affected by amendment or by catechin, proanthocyanidin, or methyl gallate, but was reduced with PGG, tannic acid and gallic acid. Soil cation exchange capacity increased following treatment with PGG but decreased with gallic acid, irrespective of amendment. Tannins entering soil may thus influence soil organic matter dynamics and nutrient cycling but their impact may be influenced by the composition of soil organic matter. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)
Open AccessArticle Effects of Shade on Nitrogen and Phosphorus Acquisition in Cereal-Legume Intercropping Systems
Agriculture 2012, 2(1), 12-24; doi:10.3390/agriculture2010012
Received: 8 December 2011 / Revised: 12 January 2012 / Accepted: 12 January 2012 / Published: 19 January 2012
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (374 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
With increasing economic and environmental costs associated with fertilizer use, the need for low-input agroecological systems is on the rise. It is well documented that intercropping legumes can increase the supply of nutrients, through N2-fixation and P mobilization. Concurrently, the [...] Read more.
With increasing economic and environmental costs associated with fertilizer use, the need for low-input agroecological systems is on the rise. It is well documented that intercropping legumes can increase the supply of nutrients, through N2-fixation and P mobilization. Concurrently, the integration of trees in the agricultural landscape shows increasing evidence of nutrient inputs through efficient biogeochemical cycles. However, little is known about the effects shade has on legume-crop performance. This research aims to determine whether intercropping of the legumes soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) with wheat (Triticum turgidum durum) is beneficial for performance, particularly under shady conditions associated with tree-based intercropping. Test species were cultivated in hydroponics with a broad nutrient solution and steady state addition of N for 3 weeks. Individual plants were transferred to rhizoboxes with a 2 mm zone of soil for 16 days under (i) full sun or (ii) shade to mimic light levels at the tree-crop interface. Under monocropping, shading was found to significantly decrease wheat biomass. Intercropping wheat with alfalfa under full sun had no negative effect on growth but did increase wheat P uptake as compared to monocropped wheat. In contrast, intercropping wheat with soybean under full sun decreased wheat biomass, suggesting competition. However, under shade, this competitive effect was mitigated, as wheat exhibited similar biomass and higher N and P shoot concentration when associated with soybean as compared to monocropped wheat under lower light levels. This effect may be attributed to reduced biomass of soybean combined with higher soybean N2-fixation under shade. Legume-based intercrops may increase nutrient supply and growth but these beneficial effects will be dependent on matching species selection to light levels under tree-based intercropping. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)
Open AccessArticle Levels of Sulfur as an Essential Nutrient Element in the Soil-Crop-Food System in Austria
Agriculture 2012, 2(1), 1-11; doi:10.3390/agriculture2010001
Received: 15 November 2011 / Revised: 27 December 2011 / Accepted: 27 December 2011 / Published: 12 January 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (175 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Total sulfur data of various agricultural and food items from the lab of the author, have been compiled to develop an understanding of sulfur levels and ecological cycling in Austria. As sulfur level is not an included factor among the quality criteria [...] Read more.
Total sulfur data of various agricultural and food items from the lab of the author, have been compiled to develop an understanding of sulfur levels and ecological cycling in Austria. As sulfur level is not an included factor among the quality criteria of soil and fertilizer composition, the database is rather small. Problems in analytical determinations of total sulfur, in particular digestions, are outlined. As a protein component, sulfur is enriched in matrices of animal origin, in particular in egg white. There is substantial excretion from animals and man via urine. Organic fertilizers (manures, composts) might contribute significantly to the sulfur budget of soils, which is important for organic farming of crops with high sulfur needs. For soils, drainage is a main route of loss of soluble sulfate, thus pot experiments may yield unrealistic sulfur budgets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)
Open AccessArticle Effects of Tillage and Crop Residue Application on Soybean Nitrogen Fixation in a Tropical Ferralsol
Agriculture 2011, 1(1), 22-37; doi:10.3390/agriculture1010022
Received: 25 October 2011 / Revised: 6 December 2011 / Accepted: 8 December 2011 / Published: 20 December 2011
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (296 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study was aimed at quantifying soybean (Glycine max) nitrogen fixation under reduced tillage (RT) and conventional tillage (CT) in a tropical Ferralsol of the sub-humid zone of western Kenya, using the isotope 15N dilution method. Crop residue (CR) management was a superimposed treatment in soybean-maize rotation and intercropping systems. This study quantified N in abscised soybean leaves. Soybean-N derived from the atmosphere (%NDfA) ranged between 41–65%; it was higher (P < 0.05) in RT (55.6%) than in CT (46.6%). Total fixed-N under ‘RT + CR’ was more than in the other treatments by at least 55% in intercropping and 34% in rotation system. Nitrogen fixed in soybean aboveground parts was 26–48 kg N ha−1 with intercropping and 53–82 kg N ha−1 with rotation. Seasonal litter fall contained about 15 kg N ha−1, with 54% NDfA. Annual nitrogen balances with soybean and maize grain removed were better in RT (−9 to −32 kg N ha−1) than in CT (−40 to −60 kg N ha−1). Application of P increased nodule weight (P < 0.05) by 3 to 16 times over the control. Soybean residues should be returned to the field after harvest to reduce soil N mining. We conclude that ‘RT + CR’ increases biological nitrogen fixation in soybean, over CT, and that phosphorus application is needed for better soybean nodulation in western Kenya. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)
Open AccessArticle Multi-Location Study of Soil Enzyme Activities as Affected by Types and Rates of Manure Application and Tillage Practices
Agriculture 2011, 1(1), 4-21; doi:10.3390/agriculture1010004
Received: 19 November 2011 / Revised: 2 December 2011 / Accepted: 5 December 2011 / Published: 9 December 2011
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (2661 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Significant amounts of manure are produced in the USA; however, information on the changes in ecosystem services related to soil biogeochemical cycling for agroecosystems supported with organic amendments such as manure is limited. A multi-location field study was initiated in Colorado (CO), [...] Read more.
Significant amounts of manure are produced in the USA; however, information on the changes in ecosystem services related to soil biogeochemical cycling for agroecosystems supported with organic amendments such as manure is limited. A multi-location field study was initiated in Colorado (CO), Kansas (KS) and Kentucky (KY), USA in loam soils to evaluate the effects of manure and tillage practices on enzyme activities that are key to biogeochemical cycling such as β-glucosidase (C cycling), α-galactosidase (C cycling), β-glucosaminidase (C and N cycling) and phosphomonoesterases (P cycling). The treatments were as follows: (i) two years of beef manure applications to a fine sandy loam at different rates (control: 0, low: 34 kg N ha−1 and high: 96 kg N ha−1) and tillage practices in CO; (ii) three years of beef manure applications to a silt loam at different rates (0, low: 67 kg N ha−1 and high: 134 kg N ha−1) and tillage practices in KS and; (iii) three years of poultry and dairy manure applications to a silt loam with different tillage practices at the same rate (403 kg N ha−1) in KY. Tillage practices (none vs. conventional) had no effect on the enzyme activities. Principal Component Analyses (PCA) grouped all enzyme activities with the high beef manure application rate after the first year in CO at 0–5 cm. By the second year, the low and high beef manure rates differed in enzyme activities for the KS soil with no difference between the low rate and control in CO. Since the first year of the KY study, acid phosphatase activity was greater in the poultry treated soil compared to dairy or the control; whereas, C cycling enzyme activities were similar in soil treated with dairy or poultry manure. For all studies, PCAs for soil samples from 5–10 cm depth did not reveal treatment separation until the second year, i.e., only high application rate differed from the other treatments. Results of the study indicated significant responses in C and P cycling enzyme activities to manure applications within two years, suggesting potential benefits to soil biogeochemical cycling essential for the productivity of agroecosystems supported with organic fertilizers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)

Review

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Open AccessReview Earthworm Populations in Savannas of the Orinoco Basin. A Review of Studies in Long-Term Agricultural-Managed and Protected Ecosystems
Agriculture 2012, 2(2), 87-108; doi:10.3390/agriculture2020087
Received: 1 February 2012 / Revised: 24 March 2012 / Accepted: 26 March 2012 / Published: 10 April 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (908 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Earthworm biomass and production in savannas are limited by seasonal precipitation and the lack of organic and nutrient resources; I hypothesize that after a long-term protection of savanna from fire and agricultural activities drastic changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of [...] Read more.
Earthworm biomass and production in savannas are limited by seasonal precipitation and the lack of organic and nutrient resources; I hypothesize that after a long-term protection of savanna from fire and agricultural activities drastic changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil occur with a concomitant increase in earthworm abundance and activities. Similar changes might occur after a long-term fertilization of savannas with manure. This review article considers the earthworm communities and other soil quality indices in Trachypogon savannas of the Orinoco Basin in an organic agricultural forestal savanna (OAFS) amended with compost over forty years in Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, and in an Experimental Station long-term protected (PS) from fire and cattle raising from more than four decades in Central Llanos, Venezuela, comparison is made with results from similar savannas. Long-term additions of organic manure or a long protection have induced significant changes in the soil physical and chemical properties of the natural savanna (NS) soils that induce a significant increase in the density and biomass of earthworm populations. On the other hand, the protection of the savanna promotes an improvement in the physical and chemical properties of the soil, which favors an increase in the density and biomass of earthworms in the PS compared with the NS subjected to recurrent burning and grazing. The results emphasize the importance of appropriate organic matter management and the relevance of earthworms in such agroecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Biology and Its Importance in Soil Fertility)

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