Over the last two decades, there has been growing interest on the effects of agricultural practices on soil biology in Europe. As soil biota are known to fluctuate throughout the season and as agro-environmental conditions may influence the effect of agricultural practices on soil organisms, conclusions cannot be drawn from a single study. Therefore, integrating the results of many studies in order to identify general trends is required. The main objective of this study was to investigate how soil biota are affected by repeated applications of organic amendments (i.e. compost, farmyard manure and slurry) or reduced tillage (i.e. non-inversion tillage and no till) under European conditions, as measured in multiyear field experiments. Moreover, we investigated to what extent the effects on soil biota are controlled by soil texture, sampling depth, climate and duration of agricultural practice. Experimental data on earthworm and nematode abundance, microbial biomass carbon and bacterial and fungal communities from more than 60 European multiyear field experiments, comprising different climatic zones and soil texture classes, were extracted from literature. From our survey, we can conclude that adopting no tillage or non-inversion tillage practices and increasing organic matter inputs by organic fertilization were accompanied by larger earthworm numbers (an increase between 56 and 125% and between 63 and 151% for tillage and organic amendments, respectively) and biomass (an increase between 108 and 416% and between 66 and 196% for tillage and organic amendments, respectively), a higher microbial biomass carbon content (an increase between 10 and 30% and between 25 and 31% for tillage and organic amendments, respectively), a marked increase in bacterivorous nematodes (an increase between 19 and 282% for organic amendment) and bacterial phospholipid-derived fatty acids (PLFA; an increase between 31 and 38% for organic amendment). Results were rarely influenced by soil texture, climate and duration of practice.
Pedobiologia, Volume 66, January 2018, Pages 18-28,