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Comparison of different tillage systems in organic farming : effect of soil structure and organic matter repartition on soil micro-organisms and their activities of carbon and nitrogen mineralization

Abstract : Over the last decades, the surface traditionally ploughed has tended to decrease and replaced by shallow working tillage techniques without soil inversion, i.e., no tillage or reduced tillage with tines or discs. These techniques were mostly developed in conventional farming systems but nowadays they are also developed in organic farming systems. Nevertheless, these tillage techniques could generate crop nutrients deficiencies and a deterioration of soil structure, especially during the first years of their application. As the use of synthetic fertilizers is forbidden in organic farming, a decrease of the soil fertility could be very detrimental for crop growth. Indeed, soil micro-organisms are key contributors to the soil functioning in organic farming as nutrient supply is mainly dependent on the degradation of soil organic matter by their mineralization activity. The objective of this work was to study - during the first years of their application (< 5 years) - the effects of different tillage techniques on soil structure, crop residues distribution and to evaluate their consequences on soil micro-organisms as well as their potential activity to mineralize organic carbon and nitrogen. To fulfill this objective, a particular sampling scheme was used, based on a morphological characterisation of soil structure. In each horizon delimited by the working depth of the successive tillage tools, we sampled different areas with distinct physical properties : compacted clods (D clods) without any visible structural porosity and loose clods with a clearly visible structural porosity (G clods). This sampling method enabled us to make connections between soil structure and soil microbial functioning, and to reveal the spatial organisation of soil micro-organisms at a macroscopic scale, quantitatively (soil microbial biomass and its activities of C and N mineralization) and qualitatively (soil microbial community structure). In this way, during the first years of treatments differentiation, quantity, activity and soil microbial community structure were modified : firstly, by crop residue distribution and secondly, by soil compaction within the horizons where substrates availability was not restricted. The integration of the spatial heterogeneities of soil structure enabled us to precise the effects of each tillage technique on the potential ability of soil micro-organisms to mineralize organic carbon and nitrogen. Thus, in the experimental conditions of this work, the application of a reduced tillage technique in organic farming doesn't reduce the potential of nitrogen mineralization in comparison with mouldboard ploughing during the first years of its application.
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Submitted on : Monday, July 27, 2009 - 8:00:00 AM
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Jean-François Vian. Comparison of different tillage systems in organic farming : effect of soil structure and organic matter repartition on soil micro-organisms and their activities of carbon and nitrogen mineralization. Sciences of the Universe [physics]. AgroParisTech, 2009. English. ⟨NNT : 2009AGPT0004⟩. ⟨pastel-00005158⟩

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