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Soil microbial biomass and sustainable farming-enhancing nutrient retention in soils through management of microbial biomass

Qiu, S., Bell, R.ORCID: 0000-0002-7756-3755 and McComb, A. (2009) Soil microbial biomass and sustainable farming-enhancing nutrient retention in soils through management of microbial biomass. In: Lucero, D.P. and Boggs, J.E., (eds.) Soil Fertility. Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp. 93-102.


Soil fertility is critical in sustainable farming and needs to be considered not only for crop productivity but also for the protection of aquatic environments. Evidence suggests that soil microbial biomass is a flexible nutrient store, and with appropriate management such a nutrient store could have potential dual benefits for improved crop productivity and enhanced nutrient retention in soils to minimize nutrient export from agricultural land to environmental waters. To date, most research has focused on stimulating the release of nutrients from the microbial biomass pool for crop uptake. By contrast, our understanding of microbial biomass as a soil regulator to buffer nutrient supply and potential leaching loss is still limited. Such a role however could be usefully explored in heavily weathered and nutrient-deficient sandy soils under Mediterranean climate conditions, such as soils in the coastal region of southwestern Australia. Here we present our views on the critical aspects of microbial immobilisation in relation to soil fertility and nutrient retention, and propose a conceptual framework for such a role of microbial nutrient retention. This is supported by previously reported data on microbial immobilisation and nutrient retention. The critical issues such as the size of soil microbial biomass and the time scale for biomass turnover, as well as its potential mobility in soil matrices are discussed along with the research needs in understanding the role of soil microbial processes in sustained soil fertility and environmental conservation.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Nova Science Publishers
Copyright: (c) 2009 Nova Science Publishers
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