26 Jun 2023
 | 26 Jun 2023

Evaluating the Tea Bag Index approach for different management practices in agroecosystems using long-term field experiments in Austria and Sweden

Maria Regina Gmach, Martin A. Bolinder, Lorenzo Menichetti, Thomas Kätterer, Heide Spiegel, Olle Åkesson, Jürgen Kurt Friedel, Andreas Surböck, Agnes Schweinzer, and Taru Sandén

Abstract. Litter decomposition is an important factor affecting local and global C cycles. It is known that decomposition through soil microbial activity in ecosystems is mainly influenced by soil type and climatic conditions. However, for agroecosystems, there remains a need for a better understanding how management practices influence litter decomposition. This study examined the effect of different management practices on decomposition at 29 sites with long-term (mean duration of 38 years) field experiments (LTEs) using the Tea Bag Index (TBI) protocol with standard litter (Rooibos and Green tea) developed by Keuskamp et al. (2013). The objective was to determine if the TBI decomposition rate (k) and stabilization factor (S) are sensitive enough to detect differences in litter decomposition between management practices, and how they interact with edaphic factors, crop type and local climatic conditions. Tea bags were buried and collected after ~60 and 90 days in 16 Austrian and 13 Swedish sites. The treatments at Austrian LTEs focused on mineral and organic fertilization, tillage systems and crop residues management, whereas the Swedish LTEs addressed cropping systems, mineral fertilization and tillage systems. The results showed that in Austria, decomposition differed more between sites than between treatments for the same experiment category. Incorporation of crop residues and high N fertilization increased k. Minimum tillage had significantly higher k compared to reduced and conventional tillage. In Sweden, litter decomposition differed more between treatments than between sites. Fertilized plots showed higher S than non-fertilized and high N fertilization had the highest k. Growing spring cereal lead to higher k than forage. Random Forest regressions showed that k and S were mainly governed by climatic conditions, which explained more than 70 % of their variation. However, under similar climatic conditions, management practices strongly influenced decomposition dynamics. Thus, the TBI approach may be suitable to apply in a more large-scale network on LTEs for evaluating decomposition dynamics more precisely.

Maria Regina Gmach et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1229', Moritz Laub, 01 Sep 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1229', Tatiana Elumeeva, 08 Sep 2023
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1229', Taiki Mori, 13 Sep 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1229', Ute Hamer, 17 Sep 2023

Maria Regina Gmach et al.

Maria Regina Gmach et al.


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Short summary
We evaluated the effect of soil management practices on decomposition at 29 sites (13 in Sweden and 16 in Austria ) with long-term field experiments using the Tea Bag Index (TBI) approach. In Austria, decomposition differed more between sites, and in Sweden differed more between soil management. We found that k and S were mainly governed by climatic conditions. In general, organic and mineral fertilization increased k and S, and reduced tillage increased S. Edaphic factors also affected k and S.