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Changes in soil microbial biomass with manure application in cropping systems: A meta-analysis

Ren, Fengling, Sun, Nan, Xu, Meng, Zhang, Xubo, Wu, Lianhai, Xu, Minggang
Soil & tillage research 2019 v.194 pp. 104291
NPK fertilizers, application rate, clay fraction, climate, cropping systems, fertilizer application, manure amendments, manure spreading, meta-analysis, microbial biomass, microbial carbon, mineral fertilizers, models, nitrogen, soil microorganisms, soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, variance
Soil microbial biomass carbon (SMBC) and nitrogen (SMBN) are important indices of soil bio-fertility. While intensively managed cropping systems can reduce microbial biomass, application of manure is a potential way to rebuilt microbial biomass and improve soil functions. However, the responses of SMBC and SMBN to manure application relative to mineral fertilizers (NPK) in Chinese cropping systems remains unclear. We conducted a meta-analysis based on 103 peer-reviewed publications with 1448 paired observations to identify the degree to which climate types, soil properties and agricultural managements regulate the responses of microbial biomass to manure amendment relative to NPK. The results indicated that manure application increased SMBC, SMBN, SMBC/soil organic carbon (SOC) and SMBN/soil total nitrogen (TN) by 40%, 55%, 16% and 21%, respectively, across all the observations compared to NPK. SMBC/SMBN under manure amendment (6.58 in average) was lower than that in NPK (7.86 in average). Manure-related factors, e.g. manure types, duration of application, manure-C and N input rates, were the strongest regulators of the response of microbial biomass. Soil properties and climates also contributed to considerable degrees of variation in microbial biomass response based on variance partitioning analysis (VPA). Results of the random forest (RF) models showed that manure type, application rate (manure-C and N input) as well as soil initial properties (SOC, TN and clay contents) were likely the predominant factors controlling the response of microbial biomass to manure application. Our study indicates that manure application can be an effective way to restore the loss of microbial biomass due to intensive application of NPK, yet variations in response are determined by specific manure type, application rate, as well as local conditions of climate and inherent soil properties.