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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2019-60
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2019-60
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 29 Oct 2019

Submitted as: original research article | 29 Oct 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL).

Development of soil biological quality index for soils of semi-arid tropics

Selvaraj Aravindh, Chinnappan Chinnadurai, and Danajeyan Balachandar Selvaraj Aravindh et al.
  • Department of Agricultural Microbiology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore 641003, India

Abstract. The Agricultural intensification, an inevitable process to feed the ever-increasing population, affects the soil quality due to management-induced changes. To measure the soil quality in terms of the soil functioning, several attempts were made to develop the soil quality index (SQI) based on a set of soil attributes. However, there is no universal consensus protocol available for SQI and the role of soil biological indicators in SQI is meagre. Therefore, the objective of the present work is to develop a unitless soil biological quality index (SBQI) scaled between 0 and 10, which would be a major component of SQI in future. The long-term organic manure amended (OM), integrated nutrient management enforced (INM), synthetic fertilizer applied (IC) and unfertilized control (Control) soils from three different predominant soil types with three different cropping patterns of the location (Tamil Nadu state, India) were chosen for this. The soil organic carbon, microbial biomass carbon, labile carbon, protein index, dehydrogenase activity and substrate-induced respiration were used to estimate the SBQI. Five different SBQI methods viz., simple additive (SBQI-1 and SBQI-2), scoring function (SBQI-3), principal component analysis-based statistical modeling (SBQI-4) and quadrant-plot based method (SBQI-5) were developed to estimate the biological quality as unitless scale. All the five methods have same resolution to discriminate the soils and INM ≈ OM > IC > Control is the relative trend being followed in all the soil types based on the SBQIs. All the five methods were further validated for their efficiency in 25 farmers' soils of the location and proved that these methods can be effectively used to scale the biological health of the soil. Among the five SBQIs, we recommend SBQI-5, which relates the variables to each other to scale the biological health of the soil.

Selvaraj Aravindh et al.
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Short summary
Soil quality is important for functioning of the agricultural ecosystem to sustain the productivity. It is combination of several physical, chemical and biological attributes. In the present work, we have developed a soil biological quality index, a sub-set of soil quality index (SBQI) using six important biological variables. These variables were computed from long-term manurial experimental soils and transformed into unitless 10-scaled SBQI. This will provide constraints of soil processes.
Soil quality is important for functioning of the agricultural ecosystem to sustain the...
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