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Crop residue displacement by soil inversion: Annelid responses and their impact on carbon and nitrogen dynamics in a lab-based mesocosm study

In the context of sustainable agriculture, a deeper knowledge of the effects of soil management on soil annelids is needed, as they play an important role in many soil processes. In a laboratory mesocosm experiment, we compared the simulated effect of ploughing by inverting the top soil (crop residues at 15 cm depth) to a non-inversion treatment (crop residues on the soil surface) using the soil type Haplic Luvisol. We investigated the response of earthworms and enchytraeids and the consequences for microbial and chemical soil parameters. Four treatments with soil fauna were established by adding: (i) endogeic earthworms (Octolasion cyaneum), (ii) anecic earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris), (iii) a combination of two enchytraeid species (Enchytraeus crypticus and Enchytraeus christenseni) and (iv) having control columns (without annelids). Feeding behaviour of annelids was investigated using isotopic analysis (δ13C, δ15N), and chemical and microbial soil properties were measured. Carbon and nitrogen losses in the form of gas emissions (CO2, N2O) and leachate were recorded during the time of incubation. We found no interactions of soil inversion and annelid addition on chemical and microbial soil properties; these properties were closely related to crop residue placement, indicated by the effect of soil inversion between 0 and 20 cm. Below 20 cm, this effect disappeared. Here, the presence of enchytraeids enhanced soil microbial properties, regardless of soil inversion. Stimulating microbial activity and increasing soil aeration seem to be the most important factors that increase CO2-C emissions in the presence of anecic earthworms. N2O-N emissions were consistently higher (+188%) in the inverted columns. Our results show that regardless of the placement of crop residues, anecic earthworms and enchytraeids fed more on crop residue derived carbon than endogeic earthworms, while endogeic earthworms appeared to avoid feeding at the soil surface. Moreover, it was found that the inversion and the annelid effects did not interact in an experimental setting where soil inversion is carried out in a form without detracting or impairing the annelids directly.

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