Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



agriculture, biomass, diversity, prairie, renewable energy, soil health, soil invertebrates


Communities of soil-dwelling organisms contribute to soil fertility and nutrient cycling, but conventional farming practices can disturb and reduce these communities. In southeastern Minnesota, some farmers are planting simplified prairie vegetation to produce biomass fuels. Our study was designed to assess the species abundance and diversity of soil invertebrates in plantings of mixed grasses only (MG) and mixed grasses with forbs (MGF) that were planted for use as a biomass fuel source on a farm in southeastern Minnesota in 2007. Abundance and diversity of soil invertebrates also were examined in soils of corn (Zea mays L.) fields grown on the same farm, and in soils of an adjacent prairie managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Six soil samples were collected from each of these 4 landscape types in summer 2010. Soil samples were placed in a Berlese apparatus for 24 h to extract soil invertebrates. Soil invertebrates were most abundant in samples from the DNR prairie (n=156). MG samples had the second highest abundance (n=146), MGF soils had lower abundance (n=87), and corn fields had the fewest invertebrates (n=41). The most abundant taxa in prairie soils included white and brown mites, springtails, and earthworms, whereas springtails and symphylans were the most abundant invertebrates in corn plots. Species diversity (Shannon H') of soil communities differed significantly (analysis of variance: F3,20 = 17.177, P < 0.0001) among landscape types. Tukey’s honestly significant difference test was employed to study any difference in diversity among the 4 landscape units and from this analysis we concluded that DNR and MGF did not differ, nor did MG and MGF reconstructed prairie plots. However, all other comparisons differed significantly in their diversity of soil invertebrates, thus substantiating our findings about abundance. This work has valuable implications for developing more sustainable soil management practices that could serve restoration efforts and adjacent agricultural lands.