On-farm impact of cattle slurry manure management on biological soil quality

Goede, R.G.M. de; Brussaard, L.; Akkermans, A.D.L.


The effects of dairy cattle slurry management on soil biota, soil respiration and nitrogen (N) mineralization were evaluated in a farm trial across 12 farms and a field experiment on 2 farms located in a dairy farming area in the north of the Netherlands. The slurry management consisted of slit injection or surface application of slurry; the use or no use of additives [Euromestmix® (MX) and Effective Microbes® (EM)] and the type and level of inorganic N fertilization. Slit injection negatively affected epigeic earthworms whereas its effect on anecic and endogeic earthworms was absent or even positive. Enchytraeids were not affected in a consistent way, whereas numbers of nematodes indicative of nutrient- enriched conditions increased. Inorganic N fertilizer had similar effects. Bacterial diversity was not different among the treatments. Nitrifier diversity, however, was high at one of the farms in the field experiment, and was negatively affected by inorganic N fertilizer. The use of MX was usually associated with higher numbers of earthworms. EM affected numbers of earthworms and numbers of bacterial and plant-feeding nematodes, but only in specific combinations of field history, slurry type and slurry application method. We found no effects of EM on the composition of the microbial community. Soil respiration was increased when slurry was surface-applied. The calculated N mineralization by earthworms was in the order of 70–200 kg N ha -¹ year -¹. It was highest under farm-characteristic surface application of slurry with MX and lowest under farm-characteristic slit injection of slurry without additives. Compared with the N mineralization by earthworms, that by enchytraeids and nematodes was quantitatively insignificant. Negative treatment effects on earthworms led to corresponding reductions in calculated N mineralization.