Under temperate climate, the conversion of grassland to arable land affects soil nutrient stocks and bacteria in a short term

Michael M. Obermeier, Friederike Gnädinger, Abilash C. Durai Raj, Wolfgang A. Obermeier, Christoph A.O. Schmid, Helga Balàzs, Peter Schröder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Projected population growth and climate change will make it inevitable to convert neglected and marginal land into productive arable land. We investigate the influence of agricultural management practices on nutrient stocks and soil functions during the conversion of former extensively used grassland to arable land. Effects of grassland removal, tillage, intercropping with faba bean (Vicia faba) and its later incorporation were studied with respect to soil properties and bacterial community structure. Therefore, composite samples were collected with a core sampler from the topsoil (0–20 cm) in (a) the initial grassland, (b) the transitional phase during the vegetation period of V. faba, (c) after ploughing the legume in, and (d) untreated controls. In all samples, nitrate-N, ammonium-N, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and total nitrogen bound (TNb) were analyzed and comparisons of the bacterial community structure after 16S-amplicon sequencing were performed to assess soil functions. Mineralization after grassland conversion followed by the biological nitrogen fixation of broad beans enhanced the nitrate-N content in bulk soil from 4 to almost 50 μg N g 1 dw. Bacterial community structure on phylum level in bulk soil was dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Bacteroidetes and remained almost stable. However, alpha and beta-diversity analysis revealed a change of the bacterial composition at the final state of the conversion. This change was primarily driven by increasing abundances of the genera Massilia and Lysobacter, both members of the Proteobacteria, after the decay of the leguminous plant residues. Furthermore, increasing abundances of the family Gaiellaceae and its genus Gaiella fostered this change and were related to the decreasing carbon to nitrogen ratio. In short, gentle management strategies could replace the input of mineral fertilizer with the aim to contribute to future sustainable and intensified production even on converted grassland.

Original languageEnglish
Article number135494
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacterial community structure
  • Incorporation of plant residues
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Turnover processes


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