Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research
REVIEW

Impact of agricultural inputs on soil organisms—a review

E. K. Bünemann A D , G. D. Schwenke B and L. Van Zwieten C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

B Tamworth Agricultural Institute, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Calala, NSW 2340, Australia.

C Wollongbar Agricultural Institute, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: else.buenemann@ipw.agrl.ethz.ch

Australian Journal of Soil Research 44(4) 379-406 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR05125
Submitted: 30 August 2005  Accepted: 11 April 2006   Published: 27 June 2006

Abstract

External agricultural inputs such as mineral fertilisers, organic amendments, microbial inoculants, and pesticides are applied with the ultimate goal of maximising productivity and economic returns, while side effects on soil organisms are often neglected. We have summarised the current understanding of how agricultural inputs affect the amounts, activity, and diversity of soil organisms. Mineral fertilisers have limited direct effects, but their application can enhance soil biological activity via increases in system productivity, crop residue return, and soil organic matter. Another important indirect effect especially of N fertilisation is soil acidification, with considerable negative effects on soil organisms. Organic amendments such as manure, compost, biosolids, and humic substances provide a direct source of C for soil organisms as well as an indirect C source via increased plant growth and plant residue returns. Non-target effects of microbial inoculants appear to be small and transient. Among the pesticides, few significant effects of herbicides on soil organisms have been documented, whereas negative effects of insecticides and fungicides are more common. Copper fungicides are among the most toxic and most persistent fungicides, and their application warrants strict regulation. Quality control of organic waste products such as municipal composts and biosolids is likewise mandatory to avoid accumulation of elements that are toxic to soil organisms.

Additional keywords: fertiliser, compost, manure, biosolids, pesticide, soil biology.


Acknowledgments

The senior author thanks the Grains Research and Development Corporation for support while this review was compiled. Questions and comments by 2 anonymous reviewers helped to improve the manuscript. We are also grateful to Kris Broos for providing us with relevant ecotoxicological references.


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