Soil solarization, alone or combined with organic amendment, is an increasingly attractive approach for managing soil-borne plant pathogens in agricultural soils. Even though it consists in a relatively mild heating treatment, the increased soil temperature may strongly affect soil microbial processes and nutrients dynamics. This study aimed to investigate the impact of solarization, either with or without addition of farmyard manure, in soil dynamics of various C, N and P pools. Changes in total C, N and P contents and in some functionally-related labile pools (soil microbial biomass C and N, K2SO4-extractable C and N, basal respiration, KCl-exchangeable ammonium and nitrate, and water-soluble P) were followed across a 72-day field soil solarization experiment carried out during a summer period on a clay loam soil in Southern Italy. Soil physico-chemical properties (temperature, moisture content and pH) were also monitored. The average soil temperature at 8-cm depth in solarized soils approached 55 C as compared to 35 C found in nonsolarized soil. Two-way ANOVA (solarization organic amendment) showed that both factors significantly affected most of the above variables, being the highest influence exerted by the organic amendment. With no manure addition, solarization did not significantly affect soil total C, N and P pools. Whereas soil pH, microbial biomass and, at a greater extent, K2SO4-extractable N and KCl-exchangeable ammonium were greatly affected. An increased release of water-soluble P was also found in solarized soils. Yet,solarization altered the quality of soluble organic residues released in soil as it lowered the C-to-N ratio of both soil microbial biomass and K2SO4-extractable organic substrates. Additionally, in solarized soils the metabolic quotient (qCO2) significantly increased while the microbial biomass C-to-total organic C ratio (microbial quotient) decreased over the whole time course. We argued that soil solarization promoted the mineralization of readily decomposable pools of the native soil organic matter (e.g. the microbial biomass) thus rendering larger, at least over a short-term, the available fraction of some soil mineral nutrients, namely N and P forms. However, over a longer prospective solarization may lead to an over-exploitation of labile organic resources in agricultural soils. Manure addition greatly increased the levels of both total and labile C, N and P pools. Thus, addition of organic amendments could represent an important strategy to protect agricultural lands from excessive soil resources exploitation and to maintain soil fertility while enhancing pest control.
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