Response of soil health indicators to dung, urine and mineral fertilizer application in temperate pastures

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Segura, C., Horrocks, C. A., Lopez-Aizpun, M., Blackwell, M. S. A., Darch, T., Hood, J., Le Cocq, K., McAuliffe, G., Lee, M. R. F. and Cardenas, L. M. 2023. Response of soil health indicators to dung, urine and mineral fertilizer application in temperate pastures. Journal of Environmental Management. 330, p. 117096. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.117096

AuthorsSegura, C., Horrocks, C. A., Lopez-Aizpun, M., Blackwell, M. S. A., Darch, T., Hood, J., Le Cocq, K., McAuliffe, G., Lee, M. R. F. and Cardenas, L. M.
Abstract

Healthy soils are key to sustainability and food security. In temperate grasslands, not many studies have focused on soil health comparisons between contrasting pasture systems under different management strategies and treatment applications (e.g. manures and inorganic fertilisers). The aim of this study was to assess the responses of soil health indicators to dung, urine and inorganic N fertiliser in three temperate swards: permanent pasture not ploughed for at least 20 years (PP), high sugar ryegrass with white clover targeted at 30% coverage reseeded in 2013 (WC), and high sugar ryegrass reseeded in 2014 (HG). This study was conducted on the North Wyke Farm Platform (UK) from April 2017 to October 2017. Soil health indicators including soil organic carbon (SOC, measured by loss of ignition and elemental analyser), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total nitrogen (TN), C:N ratio, soil C and N bulk isotopes, pH, bulk density (BD), aggregate stability, ergosterol concentration (as a proxy for fungi biomass), and earthworms (abundance, mass and density) were measured and analysed before and after application of dung and N fertilizer, urine and N fertiliser, and only N fertiliser. The highest SOC, TN, DOC, ergosterol concentration and earthworms as well as the lowest BD were found in PP, likely due to the lack of ploughing. Differences among treatments were observed due to the application of dung, resulting in an improvement in chemical indicators of soil health after 50 days of its application. Ergosterol concentration was significantly higher before treatment applications than at the end of the experiment. No changes were detected in BD and aggregate stability after treatment applications. We conclude that not enough time had passed for the soil to recover after the ploughing and reseeding of the permanent pasture, independently of the sward composition (HG or WC). Our results highlight the strong influence of the soil management legacy in temperate pasture and the positive effects of dung application on soil health over the short term. In addition, we point out the relevance of using standardised methods to report soil health indicators and some methodological limitations.

KeywordsSoil organic carbon; Total nitrogen; Ergosterol concentration; Earthworms; Improved pastures; Sustainability
Year of Publication2023
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Journal citation330, p. 117096
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.117096
Web address (URL)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030147972202669X
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 2 (WP2) - Adaptive management systems for improved efficiency and nutritional quality
The North Wyke Farm Platform- National Capability [2017-22]
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online04 Jan 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted18 Dec 2022
PublisherAcademic Press Ltd- Elsevier Science Ltd
ISSN0301-4797

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