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Forbs differentially affect soil microbial community composition and functions in unfertilized ryegrass-red clover leys

Cong, WF and Eriksen, J (2018) Forbs differentially affect soil microbial community composition and functions in unfertilized ryegrass-red clover leys. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 121, pp. 87-94.

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Document available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.03.008


Increasing plant diversity in agroecosystems is proposed to enhance multiple ecosystem services. Adding selected forbs such as caraway (Carum carvi L.) and plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.) to productive grass-clover mixtures can further enhance forage yields, root biomass, uptake of mineral nutrients and improve animal performance. Yet, it remains unclear whether and how adding these forbs to grass-clover mixtures can influence soil microbial communities and associated soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling. Based on a three-year grassland experiment varying in species diversity and composition with and without fertilizer application, we determined soil microbial community composition and functions related to C and N cycling under laboratory incubations. Results showed that inclusion of caraway modified soil microbial community composition by enhancing fungal-to-bacterial phospholipid fatty acids of the ryegrass-red clover mixture. Adding plantain to the ryegrass-red clover mixture increased the relative decomposition rate of the labile C pool, but not of the recalcitrant C pool. Yet, β-glucosidase activity and net N mineralization were unchanged due to inclusion of either forb. Moreover, fertilization with cattle slurry generally weakened these forb-induced changes in soil microbial properties. These findings demonstrate that adding selected forbs to unfertilized grass-clover leys can modify soil microbial community composition and associated C and N cycling, implying a potential for promoting long-term soil C sequestration through enhanced fungi-to-bacteria ratio, but a limited role in improving soil N fertility.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Caraway; Fertilization; Forage mixtures; Nitrogen mineralization; Plantain; Soil carbon dynamics
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Crop combinations and interactions
Soil > Nutrient turnover
Research affiliation: Denmark > Organic RDD 2 > MultiPlant
Deposited By: Eriksen, Professor Jørgen
ID Code:32975
Deposited On:14 May 2018 12:58
Last Modified:14 May 2018 12:58
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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