Manure offsets fertiliser's nano-scale changes

September 17, 2014 by Michelle Wheeler, Science Network WA
Dr He says the research is the first to show the long-term effects of chemical fertilisers and manure on the nanoparticle (10-6 mm) scale. Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

A UWA study has shown how long-term use of chemical fertilisers changes the soil on a nanoparticle scale and how these changes can be avoided by adding organic matter such as manure.

The research compared soil from a plot with no fertiliser to soil that had added nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertiliser in the short-term (three years) and in the long-term (22 years).

The scientists also examined soil that had been treated with the chemical nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertiliser plus added pig .

UWA plant biologist and study co-author Xinhua He says two decades of pure chemical fertilisation destroyed the structure of the minerals in the soil.

He says when organic matter was added to the soil in the form of manure, it retained a make-up of nanominerals similar to that of the unfertilised soil.

"If you put some organic matter, you put some manure into the system, they will recover, they will retain this soil mineral structure," Dr He says.

The research, which used from experiments in China, is set to be published next month in the journal Chemosphere.

Research is the first of its kind

Dr He says government departments already encourage farmers to retain leaves and shoots in the soil to improve the .

But he says the research is the first to show the long-term effects of chemical fertilisers and manure on the nanoparticle (10-6 mm) scale.

"This [] is good, even at the very fine structure of the ," he says.

The long-term soil samples were taken from an experiment on wheat and corn crops set up in 1990 while the short-term site was established in 2009.

The study showed only small changes to the soil following three years of chemical fertilisers and Dr He says it shows the importance of continuous funding for long-term studies.

He says research into ecosystem and agricultural function is important for future generations.

"We need the government to be supportive of this kind of long-term experiment," Dr He says.

He says the was analysed with a two-dimensional correlation spectroscope and a high resolution-transmission electron microscope.

He says further unpublished research on the 22-year-old sample from China and 160-year-old samples from Rothamsted Research in the UK showed similar results using NanoSIMS, a sensitive ion-microprobe housed at UWA that is the only facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Explore further: How does your garden grow?

More information: Yongli Wen, Huan Li, Jian Xiao, Chang Wang, Qirong Shen, Wei Ran, Xinhua He, Quansuo Zhou, Guanghui Yu, "Insights into complexation of dissolved organic matter and Al(III) and nanominerals formation in soils under contrasting fertilizations using two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy and high resolution-transmission electron microscopy techniques," Chemosphere, Volume 111, September 2014, Pages 441-449, ISSN 0045-6535, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.03.078.

Related Stories

How does your garden grow?

August 22, 2013

Food and biofuel crops could be grown and maintained in many places where it wasn't previously possible, such as deserts, landfills and former mining sites, thanks to an inexpensive, non-chemical soil additive.

Dairy manure goes urban

June 23, 2011

When natural ecosystems are replaced by roads, homes, and commercial structures, soil is negatively impacted. Studies have shown that, among other issues, distressed urban soils are often significantly compacted, may have ...

Recycled garden compost reduces phosphorus in soils

June 1, 2007

Broccoli, eggplant, cabbage and capsicum grown with compost made from recycled garden offcuts have produced equivalent yields to those cultivated by conventional farm practice, but without the subsequent build up of phosphorus.

Recommended for you

Maximizing the environmental benefits of autonomous vehicles

February 15, 2018

The added weight, electricity demand and aerodynamic drag of the sensors and computers used in autonomous vehicles are significant contributors to their lifetime energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.