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Keywords:

  • salinity;
  • microbial biomass;
  • soil respiration;
  • hybrid maize

Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of compost and vermicompost as soil conditioners in alleviating salt-affected soils and increasing maize productivity. A greenhouse trial, consisting of seven soil amendment treatments in a completely randomized design with three replications, was carried out at Khon Kaen University, Thailand, during the rainy season of 2011. Plant height and total dry matter of maize increased in treatments with compost and vermicompost application when compared with the control (no fertilizer) in two types of soils (saline and nonsaline) during the growing season. Soil pH and electrical conductivity in saturation paste extracts were decreased by compost and vermicompost amendments with or without earthworms when compared with unamended treatments in the saline soil. Compost and vermicompost amendments improved cation exchange capacity, soil organic carbon, total nitrogen and extractable phosphorus in both soils. These amendments also increased exchangeable K+, Ca2+ and Mg2+ while decreasing exchangeable Na+ in the saline soil, which suggested that Ca2+ was exchanged for Na+, exchangeable Na+, then leached out, and soil salinity reduced as a result. Soil microbial activities including microbial C and N and basal soil respiration were improved by the application of compost and vermicompost amendments with or without earthworms when compared with the control in both soils. This experiment showed that the compost and vermicompost were effective in alleviating salinity and improving crop growth. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.