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Microorganism Diversity as a Measure of Soil Health

Authors: Hilary Howard*, Indiana State University, James H. Speer, Indiana State University, Blake Bantle, Indiana State University, Addison Blaydes, Indiana State University, Hang Li, Indiana State University, Ichchha Thapa, Indiana State University
Topics: Biogeography, Soils
Keywords: Organic, Agriculture, Microorganism, Arthropod, Scanning Electron Microscope, Biodiversity
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We hypothesized that plots with organic amendments and practices will have healthier soil microorganism communities than plots that have been heavily tilled or treated with chemicals. We collected over 20 soil samples from the Indiana State University Community Garden with varying treatments ranging from tilling every year to more than five years without disturbance, with some having hardwood leaf mulch amendment or a winter cover crop. We also analyzed traditional agricultural soils that were tilled every year and compared those to no-till agricultural sites that have used herbicides. We used a Tullgren funnel to extract each sample with at least 48 hours under an incandescent light. The samples were picked and counted under a 10-63X Stereozoom Nikon microscope. Good examples of each family were imaged on a Scanning Electron Microscope. We found a gradient of soil health with frequent tilling having the lowest number and lowest diversity of arthropods, organic amendment having a much higher diversity of arthropods, and cover crop treatments demonstrating the highest species diversity.

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