Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2003
Publication Date: 3/1/2004
Citation: Kennedy, A.C., Stubbs, T.L., Schillinger, W.F. 2004. Soil and crop management effects on soil biology. In: Magdoff, F., Weil, R.R.,editors. Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture. Advances in Agroecology Series. Boca Raton,FL: CRC Press. p. 295-326. Interpretive Summary: Microorganisms are responsible for many soil processes such as organic matter (OM) dynamics, nutrient cycling, and changes in soil structure. In agroecosystems, microorganisms can affect functions such as N and C cycling, plant growth promotion and inhibition, and biological control. Microorganisms have greater diversity than any other group of organisms on the earth, but our knowledge of these organisms is limited. We need to increase our understanding of microbial communities and their functioning in agroecosystems. We investigated several strategies that can be suggested to optimize soil life. The most critical to sustainability is to use management practices that increase OM, reduce disturbance and maintain a diverse plant community. There is a wealth of genetic potential in the soil, but we do not presently have the means or understanding to utilize the full potential of the oldest inhabitants on earth. The overall goal of this manuscript is to provide a description of changes in the soil to help develop soil-building management strategies. With a greater understanding of the soil ecology and the changes in the soil biota with management, best management practices can be developed to conserve and enhance soil OM, soil quality and crop production for sustainable agricultural systems.
Technical Abstract: The life in a soil helps define that soil. This life is responsible for a multitude of processes vital to soil functioning. Microbes can have a profound effect on plant growth, organic matter (OM) accumulation and soil condition. For more than 3.5 billion years, microbes have been a life force on earth, establishing communities well before any other life forms. Since the beginning, evolution and natural selection have acted on the microbial community in soils, ever increasing the diversity of these organisms. All life is dependent upon microbial processes and OM transformations are due to microbial processes. In turn, OM sustains that life and is crucial to soil function. Strategies that increase OM will enhance soil biological processes and vise versa. Understanding these processes and implementing strategies to enhance OM, improve soil quality and maintain biological diversity will lead to sustainable agriculture. The objective of this manuscript is to explore changes occurring in the soil biota with soil and crop management in sustainable farming systems. These investigations include various levels of community structure including microbial survival strategies and delineation of groups of organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, nutritional based groups or species and functional determinations.