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Research article2005Peer reviewed

Using the continuous-quality theory to predict microbial biomass and soil organic carbon following organic amendments

Nilsson KS, Hyvonen R, Agren GI


Soil microbial biomass and microbial quotient (the ratio of soil microbial biomass to soil organic carbon) are considered to be useful as rapidly responding indicators of perturbations of soil properties. In this paper we will use a well-tested model (the continuous-quality theory) to analyse these variables in a Swedish 35-year-old field experiment with a black fallow, crop with no N addition, crop with calcium nitrate addition, and six treatments with organic amendments: straw, green manure, peat, farmyard manure, sawdust and sewage sludge. The model predicts correctly that the amount of microbial biomass increases for all the treatments with organic amendments compared with the black fallow treatment. The microbial biomass quotient increases also for all the amended treatments, except peat and sewage sludge, and decreases for the other treatments. The microbial biomass and microbial quotient increase with both the amounts of organic matter added (crop residues and amendments) and the quality of the added matter. However, to fully explain the observations it is also necessary to have an increasing microbial mortality with substrate quality. Moreover, short-term observations can be misleading with respect to both the magnitude and direction of long-term changes in biomass and related variables. Special attention must be paid to such amendments as sewage sludge, where contaminants such as heavy metals may determine process rates. We find no relation between microbial biomass or microbial quotient and yields

Published in

European Journal of Soil Science
2005, Volume: 56, number: 3, pages: 397-405

      SLU Authors

    • Hyvönen, Riitta

      • Department of Ecology and Environmental Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Ågren, Göran

        • Department of Ecology and Environmental Research, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

      Publication identifier


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