Microbial Activity in Organic Soils as Affected by Soil Depth and Crop †


The microbial activity of Pahokee muck, a lithic medisaprist, and the effect of various environmental factors, such as position in the profile and type of plant cover, were examined. Catabolic activity for [7-14C]salicylic acid, [1,4-14C]succinate, and [1,2-14C]acetate remained reasonably constant in surface (0 to 10 cm) soil samples from a fallow (bare) field from late in the wet season (May to September) through January. Late in January, the microbial activity toward all three compounds decreased approximately 50%. The microbial activity of the soil decreased with increasing depth of soil. Salicylate catabolism was the most sensitive to increasing moisture deep in the soil profile. At the end of the wet season, a 90% decrease in activity between the surface and the 60- to 70-cm depth occurred. Catabolism of acetate and succinate decreased approximately 75% in the same samples. Little effect of crop was observed. Variation in the microbial activity, as measured by the catabolism of labeled acetate, salicylate, or succinate, was not significant between a sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) field and a fallow field. The activity with acetate was insignificantly different in a St. Augustine grass [Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walt) Kuntz] field, whereas the catabolism of the remaining substrates was elevated in the grass field. These results indicate that the total carbon evolved from the different levels of the soil profile by the microbial community oxidizing the soil organic matter decreased as the depth of the soil column increased. However, correction of the amount of carbon yielded at each level for the bulk density of that level reveals that the microbial contribution to the soil subsidence is approximately equivalent throughout the soil profile above the water table.

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