Organic vs. Conventional Grassland Management: Do N-15 and C-13 Isotopic Signatures of Hay and Soil Samples Differ?

Klaus, Valentin H.; Hoelzel, Norbert; Prati, Daniel; Schmitt, Barbara; Schoening, Ingo; Schrumpf, Marion; Fischer, Markus; Kleinebecker, Till (2013). Organic vs. Conventional Grassland Management: Do N-15 and C-13 Isotopic Signatures of Hay and Soil Samples Differ? PLoS ONE, 8(10), e78134. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0078134

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Distinguishing organic and conventional products is a major issue of food security and authenticity. Previous studies successfully used stable isotopes to separate organic and conventional products, but up to now, this approach was not tested for organic grassland hay and soil. Moreover, isotopic abundances could be a powerful tool to elucidate differences in ecosystem functioning and driving mechanisms of element cycling in organic and conventional management systems. Here, we studied the delta N-15 and delta C-13 isotopic composition of soil and hay samples of 21 organic and 34 conventional grasslands in two German regions. We also used Delta delta N-15 (delta N-15 plant - delta N-15 soil) to characterize nitrogen dynamics. In order to detect temporal trends, isotopic abundances in organic grasslands were related to the time since certification. Furthermore, discriminant analysis was used to test whether the respective management type can be deduced from observed isotopic abundances. Isotopic analyses revealed no significant differences in delta C-13 in hay and delta C-13 in both soil and hay between management types, but showed that delta C-13 abundances were significantly lower in soil of organic compared to conventional grasslands. delta C-15 values implied that management types did not substantially differ in nitrogen cycling. Only delta C-13 in soil and hay showed significant negative relationships with the time since certification. Thus, our result suggest that organic grasslands suffered less from drought stress compared to conventional grasslands most likely due to a benefit of higher plant species richness, as previously shown by manipulative biodiversity experiments. Finally, it was possible to correctly classify about two third of the samples according to their management using isotopic abundances in soil and hay. However, as more than half of the organic samples were incorrectly classified, we infer that more research is needed to improve this approach before it can be efficiently used in practice.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Prati, Daniel; Schmitt, Barbara and Fischer, Markus

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

21 Feb 2014 11:10

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2016 01:46

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0078134

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.40912

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/40912

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