Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Application of biochemical degradation indices to the microbial decomposition of maize leaves and wheat straw in soils under different tillage systems

Published source details

Jacobs A., Kaiser K., Ludwig B., Rauber R. & Joergensen R.G. (2011) Application of biochemical degradation indices to the microbial decomposition of maize leaves and wheat straw in soils under different tillage systems. Geoderma, 162, 207-214


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Change tillage practices Soil Fertility

A controlled replicated experiment in 2007-2008 on silty-clay soil in Saxony, Germany (Jacobs et al. 2011) found that reducing tillage intensity reduced the amount of carbon broken down in the soil by microbes (1.6 and 0.95 mg muramic acid/g total C for maize Zea mays and wheat Triticum aestivum straw respectively) and breakdown activity, compared to ploughing (1.9. and 1.5 mg muramic acid/g total C for maize and wheat straw respectively). The tillage treatments were ploughing (mouldboard plough to 30 cm depth) and reduced tillage (harrowing to 8cm depth). There were three replicate plots (12.8 x 36 m). The cereal-crop rotation included: wheat, barley Hordeum vulgare, oats Avena sativa, maize, peas Pisum sativum, and broad beans Vicia faba. Six 5 x 20 cm bags of wheat straw and maize leaves were buried to 20 cm depth for 6 or 12 months in the soil in each tillage treatment. Biochemical and microbial breakdown indicators (muramic acid, for example) were measured.