Number of pages: 11
Type of document: Journal Article
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Nick J.M. van Eekeren Ph.D.
Language of document: English
Title in English: Fungal biomass in pastures increases with age and reduced N input
Abstract / summary in English:
Previous studies have shown that soil fungal biomass increases towards more natural, mature systems. Shifts to a fungal-based soil food web have previously been observed with abandonment of agricultural fields and extensification of agriculture. In a previous field experiment we found increased fungal biomass with reduced N fertilisation. Here, we explore relationships between fungi, bacteria, N input and grassland age on real dairy farms in the Netherlands. We hypothesised that also in pastures that are still in production there is a negative relationship between fungal biomass and fertilisation, and that fungal biomass increases with grassland age in pastures that are still in production. We expected the fungal/bacterial biomass ratio to show the same responses, as this ratio has often been used as an indicator for management changes. We sampled 48 pastures from eight organic dairy farms. Sites differed in age and fertilisation rate. We determined fungal and bacterial biomass, as well as ergosterol (a fungal biomarker). Fungal and bacterial biomass and ergosterol, showed a negative relationship with N application rate, and correlated positively with organic matter percentage. In old pastures, fungal biomass and ergosterol were higher than in younger pastures. Because bacterial biomass responded in the same way as fungal biomass, the F/B ratio remained constant, and can therefore—in our data set—not be used as an indicator for changing management. We conclude that the changes in fungal and bacterial biomass were driven by changes in organic matter quality and quantity. The negative relationship we found between N application rate and fungal biomass adds to earlier work and confirms the presence of this relationship in pastures with relatively small differences in management intensities. Earlier studies on shifts in fungal biomass focused on ex-agricultural fields or restoration projects. Here we show that fungal biomass is also higher in older agricultural pastures.
Keywords in English: Microbial biomass; Fungi; Bacteria; Nitrogen; Grassland age