Elucidating relationships between the soil food web, soil processes, and agroecosystem function is a critical step toward a more sustainable agriculture. Soil and crop management practices can alter these relationships, and their effects can persist even after imposing new management practices. In 2005, the Cornell Organic Grain Cropping Systems Experiment was established in central New York. Four cropping systems that varied in fertilizer inputs, tillage practices, and weed control were compared: High Fertility, Low Fertility, Enhanced Weed Management, Reduced Tillage.
Rising demand for renewable resources has increased silage maize (Zea mays L.)production characterized by intensive soil management, high fertilizer and pesticide inputs as well as simplified crop rotations. Advantages of renewable biomass production may thus be cancelled out by adverse environmental effects. Perennial crops, like cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum L.), are said to benefit arthropods. Substituting silage maize could hence increase biodiversity and foster ecosystem services.
Non-vascular plants such as mosses, lichens and especially microalgae are widespread in terrestrial ecosystems, but their contribution in the nutrient cycling and energy budget of soil food webs is generally neglected. Despite a relatively low total biomass, soil microalgae can be very productive and contribute to the diet of many soil decomposers such as Collembola. Using 15N/14N ratios we showed that phycophagy is of particular importance for Collembola in extreme habitats like rock surfaces, or seasonally during the wintertime.