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Fungal and bacterial growth following the application of slurry and anaerobic digestate of livestock manure to temperate pasture soils

  • John J. Walsh
  • Johannes Rousk
  • Gareth Edwards-Jones
  • Davey L. Jones
  • A. Prysor Williams
Publishing year: 2012
Language: English
Pages: 889-897
Publication/Series: Biology and Fertility of Soils
Volume: 48
Issue: 8
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

How land-application of digestate sourced from anaerobic digestion (AD) of animal waste influences the functioning of a mixed pasture agroecosystem is not well characterised, particularly with regard to the response of the actively growing microbial community. We studied the impact of the liquid AD digestate on the decomposer community in two different soils, seeded with two different common grassland crops; a mixture of either grass or grass/clover in a greenhouse experiment. We studied bacterial (leucine incorporation into bacteria) and fungal (acetate incorporation into ergosterol) growth responses to AD cattle slurry digestate, undigested cattle slurry, mineral fertiliser (NPK and N) added at a rate equivalent to 150 kg N ha(-1), and a no-fertiliser control treatment. Differences in fungal and bacterial growth were evident between the soil and sward types. However, the fertilisers consistently stimulated a higher bacterial growth than the no-fertiliser control, and liquid digestate resulted in a level of bacterial growth higher or equal to that of mineral fertiliser, whilst undigested slurry resulted in lower bacterial growth. These fertiliser effects on bacterial growth mirrored the effects on plant growth. In contrast, the fungal community responded only marginally to fertiliser treatments. We conclude that the application of digestate stimulates the bacterial decomposer community in a similar way to that of mineral fertilisers. Our results suggest that mineral fertiliser can be exchanged for liquid digestate with limited impact on the actively growing soil microbial community that, in turn, regulate important soil processes including nutrient cycling in agricultural soils.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Animal waste
  • Biogas
  • Grassland
  • Decomposer ecology
  • Green fertiliser
  • Legume
  • Microbial ecology
  • Plant nutrition
  • Soil fertility


  • Effect of environmental factors on fungal and bacterial growth in soil
  • Microbial carbon-use efficiency
  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 0178-2762
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E-mail: johannes [dot] rousk [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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