Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access



Faculty Mentor

Denise Finney

Student Contributor

Jeffrey Cocci


Presented during the 24th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2022 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Global climate change and an increase of anthropogenic factors combine to drive change in the ecosystems found in soil. Soil is alive, supporting thriving ecosystems of microbes that are essential to supporting sustainable food systems and practices. A major role of soil microbes is breaking down organic matter in soil to create mineralized forms of nitrogen. Knowing the rate at which the microbial communities carry out mineralization processes and how crop type and diversity affects this rate is crucial to future sustainable agriculture practices. Plant diversity, the number of species present in an area, has been shown to affect nitrogen cycling in natural systems, but these interactions have not been widely studied in agricultural systems. The focus of this project is to better understand the impact of functional crop diversity, the role plants have in the ecosystem and how they all come together to best support the entire ecosystem, on the nitrogen cycling capabilities of microbes. Using soil samples collected from the Whittaker Environmental Research Station (WERS), a 35-day soil incubation was conducted. A base line inorganic nitrogen measurement was taken using colorimetric methods and then measured again at the end of the incubation. The white clover monoculture showed a significantly higher rate of nitrogen mineralization than the functionally diverse mixture of all three species. Understanding this relationship and how important nitrogen fixing plants will help create future sustainable agriculture management strategies.


Available to Ursinus community only.