Microbial biomass in a semi arid soil of the central highlands of Mexico cultivated with maize or under natural vegetation
ABSTRACT Microbial biomass (MB) is the key factor in nutrient dynamics in soil, but no information exists how clearing of vegetation to cultivate maize in the central highlands of Mexico might affect it. Soil MB was measured with the chloroform fumigation incubation (CFI) and fumigation extraction (CFE) techniques and the substrate-induced respiration (SIR) method in soil sampled under or outside the canopy of mesquite (Prosopis laevigata) and huisache (Acacia tortuoso), N2 fixing shrubs, and from fields cultivated with maize. Microbial biomass C as measured with the CFI technique ranged from 122 mg C kg−1 in agricultural soil to 373 mg C kg−1 in soil sampled under mesquite shrubs. Microbial biomass N as measured with the CFI technique ranged from 11 mg N kg−1 in agricultural soil to 116 mg N kg−1 in soil sampled under mesquite shrub. The ratio of microbial biomass C as measured with CFI related to the ninhydrin-positive compounds (NPC) was 12.23 after 1 day and 8.43 after 10 days while the relationship with extractable C was 3.15 and 2.96, respectively. The metabolic quotient (qCO2) decreased in the order OUTSIDE > MESQUITE > HUIZACHE > AGRICULTURE, and the microbial biomass:soil organic C ratio decreased in the order MESQUITE > HUIZACHE > OUTSIDE > AGRICULTURE using SIR to determine the microbial biomass. It was found that converting soil under natural vegetation to arable soil was not only detrimental for soil quality, but might be unsustainable as organic matter input is limited.