The effect of reduced cultivation on selected soil fauna

Lee, EE 1984, The effect of reduced cultivation on selected soil fauna , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Conventional cultivation is costly in both man hours and fuel energy, and tends to increase the rate of soil erosion. The introduction of reduced tillage systems has led to savings in both labour and energy, and to increased soil conservation. Changes in cultivation regimes bring about changes in soil characteristics which will in turn affect the populations of soil fauna. A survey of the literature covering studies of soil fauna in relation to different cultivation regimes was carried out. This indicated that there was a lack of information about the effects of reduced cultivation on many species which are normally present in an agricultural environment e. g. the carabids and staphylinids. This study aimed to examine the effects of reduced cultivation techniques on earthworms and epigeic fauna in general, and on carabids and staphylinids in particular. Two separate farms were sampled. The first, Drayton Experimental Husbandry farm in Warwickshire, had a fully replicated bock design layout of three types of cultivation: ploughed, flexitined and zero tilled. These were sampled during three crop years for surface dwelling earthworms and epigeic fauna. The effects of straw baling and burning, on the numbers and species of surface dwelling earthworms, and of epigeic invertebrates was investigated at the second farm, Ashley Hall in Cheshire. At both farms the earthworms were sampled by formalin expellent and by handsorting; the epigeic fauna were sampled using pitfall traps. Soil samples from both sites were analysed to determine some of their physical and chemical properties, at different depths. Both sites were bounded by hedgerows and during one crop year, at Ashley Hall farm, the effect of distance from a hedgerow on the numbers of epigeic fauna caught was studied using pitfall trapping. It was found that there were distinct sets of hedge and field fauna, and that the hedge played an important role in maintaining the faunal diversity in the field. The removal of the crop and the cereal straw was shown to bring about a significant reduction in the field fauna. The removal of straw by burning resulted in greater reductions, but the effects on the numbers of individuals and species did not persist into the following year. Differences were found between the three systems of cultivation examined. These were both statistically significant and of economic relevance. Many of the taxonomic groups, and the coleopteran species, were shown to have a distinct preference for the conditions created by a particular regime. These results, together with those from the hedge and straw removal studies, are discussed in the context of predator-crop pest relationships and stability in the agricultural environment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Fairhurst, CP (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Environment and Life Sciences
Depositing User: USIR Admin
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2017 10:41
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 11:23

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