Variation in urease and β-glucosidase activities with soil depth and root density in a ‘Cripp's Pink’/M7 apple orchard under conventional and organic management

Published in: South African Journal of Plant and Soil
Volume 32, issue 4, 2015 , pages: 227–234
DOI: 10.1080/02571862.2015.1053155
Author(s): André H MeyerAgricultural Research Council Infruitec–Nietvoorbij, South Africa, John WooldridgeAgricultural Research Council Infruitec–Nietvoorbij, South Africa, Joanna F DamesDepartment of Biochemistry and Microbiology, South Africa


The effects of conventional (CON; utilising synthetic fertiliser and herbicide) and organic (ORG; nutrients supplied in compost, weeds controlled with straw mulch) orchard floor management practices on depth-wise variation in urease and β-glucosidase activities in tree-row soils were compared in a Western Cape ‘Cripp's Pink’/M7 apple orchard. Urease and β-glucosidase activities were determined spectrophotometrically in soils from five depth intervals from the walls of trenches excavated across the tree rows after seven years of treatment application. Soil pH, organic carbon, nitrate (NO3 ) and ammonium (NH4 ) nitrogen were also determined, as was root density. Enzyme activities were higher in the ORG than the CON topsoils but did not differ significantly (p = 0.05) at depths >30 cm. The positive effects of the ORG treatments were attributed to the liming effect and carbon and nitrogen contributions of the compost. Urease and β-glucosidase activities correlated strongly. Activities of both enzymes correlated significantly and positively with carbon, NO3− and pH, with urease correlated more strongly than β-glucosidase. Only urease correlated with root density. Organic orchard floor management practices may be more effective than CON practices in promoting microbial enzyme activities in the 0–30 cm soil depth intervals of Western Cape apple orchard soils.

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