Effect of mānuka ( Leptospermum scoparium ) on nitrogen and Escherichia coli reductions in soils: a field experiment


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Purpose Planting strategies can be effective mechanisms to reduce diffuse pollution from agricultural catchments reaching water bodies. Plants with antimicrobial properties such as mānuka ( Leptospermum scoparium ) demonstrated in controlled conditions the ability to inhibit nitrification and growth of pathogens in soils. This potential in a real on-farm setting was still to be investigated. Methods In a stock-excluded riparian area, planted with mānuka on a dry stock farm, synthetic excrement patches high in urea (950 kg N ha −1 equiv.) and Escherichia coli (7.9 × 10 9 cfu plant -1 ) underneath mānuka saplings and pasture were applied. Soil was sampled at three depths over 21 days after the excrement application and analysed for total C and N, inorganic N, pH, soil moisture and E. coli . Results There was no significant difference between the pasture and mānuka for total C and N, C:N ratio, and soil moisture. E. coli was only different between both at 20–30 cm deep. NO 3 − - N and NH 4 + - N concentrations were significantly lower under mānuka compared to pasture for the upper two soil depths (NO 3 − - N: 109 mg kg −1 vs 205 mg kg −1 in the topsoil). Conclusions The results of this study indicate that mānuka may inhibit urease activity and nitrification and could reduce on-farm nitrate leaching, while also highlighting that field conditions make quantifying such phenomenon more complex.
Leptospermum scoparium, Biological nitrification inhibition, Escherichia coli, Riparian planting, Shelter belts
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