Chemical, biochemical and microbiological indicators to assess soil quality in temperate agro-ecosystems

Giacometti, Caterina (2013) Chemical, biochemical and microbiological indicators to assess soil quality in temperate agro-ecosystems, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze agroambientali, 25 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/5914.
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Soil is a critically important component of the earth’s biosphere. Developing agricultural production systems able to conserve soil quality is essential to guarantee the current and future capacity of soil to provide goods and services. This study investigates the potential of microbial and biochemical parameters to be used as early and sensitive soil quality indicators. Their ability to differentiate plots under contrasting fertilization regimes is evaluated based also on their sensitivity to seasonal fluctuations of environmental conditions and on their relationship with soil chemical parameters. Further, the study addresses some of the critical methodological aspects of microplate-based fluorimetric enzyme assays, in order to optimize assay conditions and evaluate their suitability to be used as a toll to asses soil quality. The study was based on a long-term field experiment established in 1966 in the Po valley (Italy). The soil was cropped with maize (Z. mays L.) and winter wheat (T. aestivum L.) and received no organic fertilization, crop residue or manure, in combination with increasing levels of mineral N fertilizer. The soil microbiota responded to manure amendment increasing it biomass and activity and changing its community composition. Crop residue effect was much more limited. Mineral N fertilization stimulated crop residue mineralization, shifted microbial community composition and influenced N and P cycling enzyme activities. Seasonal fluctuations of environmental factors affected the soil microbiota. However microbial and biochemical parameters seasonality did not hamper the identification of fertilization-induced effects. Soil microbial community abundance, function and composition appeared to be strongly related to soil organic matter content and composition, confirming the close link existing between these soil quality indicators. Microplate-based fluorimetric enzyme assays showed potential to be used as fast and throughput toll to asses soil quality, but required proper optimization of the assay conditions for a precise estimation of enzymes maximum potential activity.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Giacometti, Caterina
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze agrarie
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Long-term experiment; Fertilization; Soil quality indicators; Mid-infrared spectroscopy; Microplate-based fluorimetric enzyme assays.
Data di discussione
10 Giugno 2013

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