RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN SOIL MICROBIAL BIOMASS, AGGREGATE STABILITY AND AGGREGATE ASSOCIATED-C: A MECHANISTIC APPROACH
Keywords:organic C pools, microbial C, soil aggregates, fast wetting, water abrasion
For the identification of C pools involved in soil aggregation, a physically-based aggregate fractionation was proposed, and additional pretreatments were used in the measurement of the 1-2 mm aggregate stability in order to elucidate the relevance of the role of soil microorganisms with respect to the different aggregate breakdown mechanisms. The study was carried out on three clay loam Regosols, developed on calcareous shales, known history of organic cultivation.
Our results showed that the soil C pool controlling the process of stabilisation of aggregates was related to the microbial community. We identified the resistance to fast wetting as the major mechanism of aggregate stability driven by microorganims. The plausible hypothesis is that organic farming promotes fungi growth, improving water repellency of soil aggregates by fungal hydrophobic substances. By contrast, we failed in the identification of C pools controlling the formation of aggregates, probably because of the disturbance of mechanical tillage which contributes to the breakdown of soil aggregates.
The physically-based aggregate fractionation proposed in this study resulted useful in the mechanistically understanding of the role of microorganisms in soil aggregation and it might be suggested for studying the impact of management on C pools, aggregates properties and their relationships in agricultural soils.
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