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Commission III - Agricultural use of peatlands and peat

Chairman: Prof. Dr. Lech Wojciech Szajdak  szajdak2010_1.jpg
Doctor Honoris Causa
Polish Academy of Sciences
Institute for Agricultural and Forest Environment
ul. Bukowska 19
PL-60-809 Poznan
POLAND
Tel.: +48 61 847 5601
Fax: +48 61 847 3668
Email: szajlech at man. poznan.pl, lszajdak at tlen.pl

Agricultural use is the main form of man’s intervention into the nature of peatlands and agricultural use leads to significant changes in the nature of the biotype. Therefore, while studying the agricultural use of peatlands, it is important to consider the problem of their transformation by agricultural techniques.

Over the years, it has been observed that the cultivation of field crops on peatland tends to result in their transformation into sites more suitable for grassland production. This significantly decreases the mineralisation process and the loss of organic soil, limiting the adverse effects associated with their cultivation. Recently peatland management has focused on the regeneration of drained sites and on their renaturalisation, recognising success and failure of different techniques.


Annual Report 2010

The commission members dealt with the problems of an agricultural use of peat and peatlands and published their results in numerous presentations and publications.

Commission IIII of International Peat Society has been involved in the organization of a scientific session on "Dehydrated and rewetted peatlands: hydrological, physical and chemical changes" (Division Soil System Sciences, Session SSS17) during European Geosciences Union, General Assembly, which was going to take place in Vienna, Austria, May 2-7, 2010. The organizers of the session were: Lech W. Szajdak (convener), and co-conveners Teodoro Miano and Claudio Zaccone.

The authors/contributors of 29 abstracts submitted to the Organizing Committee, represented the following countries: Belarus, Finland, Greece, Italy, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom. The abstracts showed wide aspects of dehydrated and rewetted organic soils: peat, moorshes and sapropels. Selected papers were submitted to scientific international journals.

Several members of the Commission III were attended in the Polish-Belarus Symposium on “Physical, chemical and biological processes in soils”. The symposium held at Turew, near Czempin, Poland, June 23-24, 2010, was attended by 50 participants representing 13 Polish and Belarus Scientific Institutes and Universities. A total 53 papers were presented and discussed during third sessions. Lech W. Szajdak (the chair of the Commission III) was a head of Scientific and Organizing Committee of this event. The monograph on “Physical, chemical and biological processes in soils” edited by L.W. Szajdak and A.V Karabanov was published as the results of this conference. It is written in English. The monograph contains 53 papers on more than 600 pages. A number of papers, dealing with the behavior and functions of organic matter, make a contribution to increasing agricultural production. Other papers discussed the biochemical transformation of organic matter, the characterization of humic compounds, function of chemical compounds in the movements of water in soils and the impact of modern techniques on physical and chemical features in soils.

Commission III was also involved in the All Russian 7th  Scientific School of Young Scientists with International Participation on “Mires and Biosphere”, September 13-18, 2010, Tomsk, Russia. The school hosted by the Tomsk State Pedagogical University. Lech W. Szajdak was a member of Scientific Committee. The following topics were proposed: modern paludification landscape and the role of mires in biosphere, biogeochemical processes of organic matter transformation in mire ecosystems, physico-chemical and biological properties of mires and directions of the utilization of mire resources. Several members of this school participated in two excursions: (i) to Vasyugan Mire and (ii) post-school tour to Gornyi Altaj.

Publishing activity

In 2009 a number of members of the Commission III carried out investigations, their results were published in the following scientific journals: Chemistry and Ecology, Mires and Peat, Geoderma, Peatlands International, Biology and Biochemistry and others.
In addition several members of the Commission III were included in the monograph on “Mires and Peat”. The excellent book was edited by Māris Kļaviņš. The monograph was published by the University of Latvia Press. It is written in English. The aim of this book is to sum up the existing research on peat and mires in Latvia and Poland and identify major prospective directions of research on these topics in future. The hardback publication contains 214 pages and can be purchased at www.gramata24.lv or downloaded as PDF file from www.tiny.cc/qzm7d.

Plans

Commission IIII of International Peat Society has been involved in planning a scientific conference on “Necessity of peatlands protection”. The following topics are proposed for discussion: (i) Peatlands and forest areas, (ii) Protection of peatlands in agricultural and forestry landscape, (iii) Multifunction of peatlands. The Conference will offer an excellent opportunity for all scientists, policy makers, and industry representatives - to meet, share and discuss new knowledge and experience on all aspects of peat and forestry peatlands. The conference will be held in September 1-2, 2011, Town Tleń located in Bory Tucholskie, central Poland. More information about the conferences is available at the website:
www.isrl.poznan.pl/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=78&Itemid=67&lang=en.

Conclusion

Professor Lech Wojciech Szajdak, the chair of the Commission III would like to express his gratitude towards the members who participated in the meetings and the people who have worked voluntary for the Commission III.


Annual Report 2009

The commission members dealt with the problems of agricultural use of peat and peatlands and published their results in numerous presentations and publications.

Session on “Organic soils: impact of land-use change on peatlands degradation”

Commission III organized a session on “Organic soils: impact of land-use change on peatlands degradation” during the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2009 in Vienna, Austria, on 19 - 24 April 2009. Lech Szajdak and Teodoro Miano were conveners of this meeting.

The session focused on biological, chemical, biochemical aspects and physical aspects of peatlands degradation caused by land use change. The participants pointed out that long-term cultivation and agricultural use of peatlands and their exploitation has revealed a number of effects including lowering of the water table, increase of aeration, changes in plant communities, and the release of carbon gases. These processes show the disturbance of the thermodynamic balance in peat. In addition, the decline in peat soil moisture content resulting from drainage leads to shrinkage of the peat is observed.

The participants concluded that volume change due to shrinkage is the result of several forces acting at micro-scale, and its mechanism and magnitude differ from those in mineral (clay) soils. Drainage in particular results in a sharp change of biotic and abiotic conversions and consequent degradation of peat organic matter. As results of drainage and due to a number of factors including oscillation of ground water level, changes of aerobic conditions, different plant communities, root exudates and products of degradation of plant remains, peat-muck soils may undergo a process of secondary transformation. The session included 10 oral and 14 poster presentations. The participants came from Belarus, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

The EGU General Assembly was a great success. 9,088 scientists from all over the world were brought into one meeting covering all disciplines of the Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences. Up to 26% of the participants were students. The programme included 12,977 oral and poster presentations during the week and was completed by an interesting exhibition from industry and publishing as well as a high number of side meetings.

Publishing activity

In 2009, a number of members of Commission III carried out investigations, which results were published in the following scientific journals: Agronomy Research, Agrophysics International, Allelopathy Journal, Biology and Fertility of Soils, Geoderma, Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science and others.

Plans

Commission IIII of the International Peat Society has been involved in planning a scientific session on "Dehydrated and rewetted peatlands: hydrological, physical and chemical changes" (Division Soil System Sciences, Session SSS17) during EGU, General Assembly, which is going to take place in Vienna, Austria on 2 - 7 May 2010. The organizers of the session are: Lech Szajdak (convener), and co-conveners Teodoro Miano and Claudia Zaccone.

The authors/contributors of 29 abstracts submitted to the Organizing Committee represent the following countries: Belarus, Finland, Greece, Italy, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and United Kingdom. The abstracts include wide aspects of dehydrated and rewetted organic soils: peat, moorshes and sapropels. Selected papers will be published in a scientific international journal. The description of the session is available at http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2010/sessionprogramme/SSS, while information about the EGU itself can be found at www.egu.eu.

Commission III is also involved in the All Russian 7th Scientific School of Young Scientists with International Participation on Bogs and Biosphere to be held on 13 - 18 September 2010 in Tomsk, Russia. The school will be hosted by the Tomsk State Pedagogical University. The following topics are proposed: modern paludification landscape and the role of mires in biosphere, biogeochemical processes of organic matter transformation in mire ecosystems, physico-chemical and biological properties of mires and directions of the utilization of mire resources. An excursion to Vasyugan Mire and a post-school tour to Gornyi Altai are proposed. Contact person is Professor Lidia Inisheva, Street Kievskaya, 60, Phone: +7(3822) 52-00-99; 8-909-539-76-39, Fax: +7(3822) 52-00-99, email: inisheva@mail.ru.

We were very grieved to receive the sad news that Professor Tomasz Brandyk passed away in 2009. He played an invaluable role in the activities of the Commission III. It should be pointed out that Professor Brandyk was the Chair of our Commission in the years 2000 to 2004. During this period, he was also a member of the Executive Board of IPS. From 2004 until his death, he was the second Vice-President of IPS and Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of IPS. Professor Brandyk was Editorial Board member of several Polish and international scientific journals including Peatlands International.

I would like to thank once again the participants and voluntary workers of the Commission III.

Annual Report 2008

Micro meetings

There have been four micro meetings of Commission III since the last report was published. The first one was held in Ukraine. Its aim was to identify and evaluate natural phytohormones - auxine in peats, moorshes and sapropels and in substrates for agriculture, horticulture, pomology, and floriculture. Phytohormones are responsible for the physiological activity of plants. These organic compounds in low concentrations move within the plant from a site of production to a site of action.

These compounds are involved in a variety of diverse plant growth and developmental responses. A principal feature of plant hormones is their ability to impact on the development and health of plants. These substances are also created during natural conditions in compost and in inorganic and organic soils under different cultivated plants. Therefore, the investigation of auxines is very important.

During the meeting, attention was focused on achieving a good yield by reducing plant hormone losses. This process includes enzymatic cleavage of the auxines’ structures and several pathways of their degradations. The application of organic fertilizers prepared on the basis of peat and sapropels were also discussed.

During this meeting, some aspects of the effects of biologically active substances extracted from peat organic matter on the activity of the hydrolytic enzymes in the germination of barley seeds were revealed.

The next meeting took place in Estonia. The goal of the discussion was to explain the general ecological characterization of peat soils and their mutual relationship with the plant cover. It was postulated that the dominant natural ecosystems formed on peatlands are (i) mixed birch, alder, spruce and pine forests on well decomposed eutrophic fen soils, and (ii) sparse pine forests and hummock-ridge-hollow raised bogs sparsely covered by pine on slightly decomposed oligotrophic bog soils.

It was shown that the general properties and functioning of the peat soil cover, and especially its epipedon layer, are, to a great extent, due to variations in soil conditions compared with those of peats in deeper horizons. Therefore the peat soil or the superficial part of peatlands should be treated separately from that stored in the deeper peat layers. It was postulated that the biological diversity of plant cover on spring and quaking mire soils is exceptionally high and therefore they need careful protection.

The next meetings took place in Belarus. The main aim of the discussion was to develop analytical methods for the investigation of biologically active substances in soils. Several very important groups of chemical substances were selected. These compounds participate in chemical, biochemical and biological pathways in peat. They also have real physiological activity and are responsible for many significant physicochemical properties.

The last meeting took place in Russia. The purpose of this meeting was to evaluate the changes of organic matter in meliorated and ameliorated peatlands. The melioration of peatlands led to biotic and abiotic changes, which implicated the degradation of organic matter and organic compounds. The decrease of the water table in peat led to the differentiation of peptides and amino acids from hydrophilic to hydrophobic. Additionally, degradation and conversion of biologically active substances is observed. As a result of draining and due to a number of factors, including oscillation of ground water level, changes of aerobic conditions, different plant communities, root exudates and the products of the degradation of the rest of the plant remains, peat-muck soils may undergo a process of secondary transformation.

13th International Peat Congress Tullamore

Commission III organized the session on “Agriculture on Peatlands” during the 13th International Peat Congress in Tullamore. Papers presented dealt with the problem of the field water regime in a deformable sub-irrigated peat-moors soil profile. The observed values for pressure head, moisture content and groundwater level revealed that the required water conditions were present in the root zone of grasslands even during dry periods with low amounts of precipitation in June and July 2006. Changes in the soil surface level of up to 42 mm were also observed during the period considered.

Some investigations showed the impact of different organic fertilizers based on peat, sapropel and brown coal on amino acid organic nitrogen compounds in the soil. It is commonly known that amino acids represent a form of organic nitrogen which is easily hydrolysable by chemical compounds and enzymes and is readily available for plants and soil microorganisms. The highest increase in bound amino acids in the soil was observed for fertilizer based on brown coal. Soil treated with this fertilizer supplied 93.7% more amino acid nitrogen than the reference soil. Two other fertilizers based on peat and sapropel supplied 64.1% and 56.3% more amino acid nitrogen, respectively, than the reference soil. Neutral amino acid predominated in all plots receiving different organic fertilizers, while acidic amino acids were present in the lowest concentrations.

Some investigations showed results on the function of peatlands located on secondary transformed peat-moorsh soils with regard to the decrease of different forms of nitrogen and carbon in ground water passing through the peatlands.

During the 13th International Peat Congress in Tullamore, the members of Commission III elected Lech Szajdak as Chairperson, Kerstin Berglund as Vice Chairperson and Ryszard Oleszczuk as the Secretary for the period 2008 - 2012. They also proposed to continue to deal as a working group with the problem of histic soils under the chair of Prof. Parent. IPS Commission III will organize a session on “Organic soils: impact of land-use change on peatlands degradation” in the debate - Soil System Sciences during the European Geosciences Union, General Assembly which will take place in Vienna, Austria on 19 - 24 April 2009. The members of IPS Commission III will also participate in several projects supported by different international organizations.

Publishing activity

Impacts of agricultural utilization of peat soils on greenhouse gas balance

In 2008 Dr. R. Oleszczuk, Secretary of Commission III, was involved in the Working Group on Peatlands and Climate Change organized by the International Peat Society. Its main objective was to prepare the book “Peatlands and Climate Change”, consisting of 9 chapters and addressed to researchers, students, journalists and policymakers. Dr. R. Oleszczuk was appointed to the post of Co-ordinator of the chapter on “Impacts of agricultural utilization of peat soils on greenhouse gas balance”. Additionally, Prof. L. Szajdak, Chair of Commission III, was involved in the work on this chapter. The book on “Peatlands and Climate Change” was published at the 13th International Peat Congress in Tullamore in 2008.

Special issue in Agronomy Research

A special issue on the “Restoration of Peatland Soils for Agricultural Use“ was edited by Lech Szajdak and published in Agronomy Research. It contains selected papers dealing with some aspects of organic soils. They were presented during the session on “Restoration of Peatland Soils for Agricultural Use” at the 5th European Conference on Ecological Restoration held in Greifswald, Germany on 21 - 25 August 2006.

This volume contains papers on the impact of long-term intensive cultivation and agricultural use of peatlands on the degradation and mineralization of peat organic matter and the moorshing process. These practices result in subsidence and soil compaction as well as in peat losses through biochemical breakdown. This causes changes in peat structure and nutrient dynamics.

However, the rate of this process depends on several factors: the type of peat, degree of peat decomposition, density and thickness of the peat layer, drainage depth as well as climate and drainage duration. It was observed that long-term intensive use of former fen areas resulted in changes in biochemical and physical properties as well as in the chemical composition and molecular structure of the humic substances. However, the main cause of this process is the lowering of the groundwater level to permit intensive utilization.

Special issue in Plant and Soil

A special issue on the “Processes, Mechanisms and Utilization of Organic Soils” in the journal Plant and Soil edited by Lech Szajdak and Teodoro Miano was published. It contains selected papers presented at a special session at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly held in Vienna, Austria in April 2007. The goal of this session was to discuss natural organic soils and sediments, peatlands (fens and raised bogs), mires, gyttja, as well as mucks, their main physico-chemical processes and their utilization.

The papers that emerged from the meeting in Vienna reveal that peat comprises either relatively unstable substances, whose reactivity contributes to its usefulness, or highly stable, recalcitrant fractions, both involved in the fate of organic and inorganic pollutants.

Some investigations described that the physiological activity of peat is observed in stimulating and promoting plant growth. Among other topics raised and discussed were changes of the carbon cycle in oligotrophic bogs in Western Siberia due to climate change and histosols as ecologically active constituent of peatlands.

Conclusions

In conclusion, the results presented are expected to provide a better insight into chemical and physical properties and processes occurring in particular environments and to provide a stimulating background for future studies on this topic.

This year many members of Commission III carried out researches, the results of which were published in the following scientific journals: Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science, Agronomy Research, Agrophysics International, Biology and Fertility of Soils, Geoderma, Plant and Soil, Soil Biology and Biochemistry and others.

Prof. Lech Szajdak would like to express his gratitude towards the members who participated in the meetings and all the people who have worked voluntary for Commission III.

Annual Report 2007

Micro Meetings of the Commission

There have been three micro-meetings of Commission III since the last report was published. The first was held in Belarus and its aim was to compare particularities of the chemical structure and the amphiphilic (hydrophobic and hydrophilic) properties of humic acids extracted from a peat soil with different reagents. It is well known, that humic acids are involved in different kinds of interactions and fulfil various ecological functions. Humic acids as the major constituents of soil organic matter actively participate in the global C cycle, exert influence on the atmospheric CO2 concentration and consequently, the global climate, and control the fate of different contaminants in the environment. Humic acids are heterogeneous macromolecules characterized by various chemical structures, sizes and properties. It was shown, that the investigation of humic fractions with different physicochemical characteristics and stability seems to be very important, not only for peat soils and their degradation. Their reactivity in the environment has its origin in the heterogeneity and poly-chemical properties of composing compounds. It is significant to isolate and investigate fractions of humic acids with definite physicochemical characteristics and functional activity. Although, chromatographic methods of humic acid fractionation are very effective and widely used for mineral soils, there is a lack of information concerning their usefulness for organic soils.

The second meeting was held in Estonia and its aim was to elucidate soil cover suitability for different plant covers (species, associations, crops) on the basis of soil characteristics, characterize the edaphic conditions needed for different plant covers, and show the importance of ecologically sound matching plant covers (forests, grasslands, crops) with local soils of the area. It was shown, that natural plant associations indicate soil properties (water regime, nutrient supply, acidity). However forest and grassland plant covers were matched with soils, as a result of their mutual influence. The biodiversity of plant cover is substantially influenced by the pedodiversity of a soil cover, as it depends on the soil type and its properties. At the same time the plant cover diversity depends to a great extent on the land management. However, soil cover composition in every region of the world has, according to soil conventions, certain properties which are distinctive only for that region.

The next meetings took place in Russia. The aim of this event was to evaluate the changes of organic matter in meliorated and unmeliorated peatlands. The melioration of peatlands has led to biotic and abiotic changes, which later on have contributed to the degradation of organic matter and organic compounds. Long-term cultivation and agricultural use of peatlands has caused the lowering of the water table, increased aeration, and changes in plant communities. The decline in peat soil moisture content due to drainage leads to the shrinkage of the peat. Drainage in particular results in a sharp change of biotic and abiotic properties and consequent degradation of peat organic matter. Peat-muck soils may undergo a process of secondary transformation as a result of drainage and a number of other factors including oscillation of ground water level, changes of aerobic conditions, different plant communities, root exudes and products of degradation of the rest of the plant remains. A change of hydrophilic to hydrophobic properties of organic matter during secondary transformation seems to be a very important factor in this process.

Session on “Organic soils, mechanisms and utilization”

Several members of Commission III of IPS attended the session on “Organic soils, processes, mechanisms and utilization” during the European Geosciences Union (EGU) Vienna, Austria, 15 – 20 April 2007, General Assembly. The organizers of the session were: Lech Szajdak (convener) and Teodore Miano, Joachim Blankenburg (co-conveners).

The goal of this session was to learn about processes, mechanisms and utilization of organic soils: peatlands (fens and raised bogs), mires, and gyttja and moorshes. It was shown that peat is a highly organic sediment, structurally different from mineral soils, yet exhibiting certain similarities to them. Humus in organic soils is composed of known and unknown chemical structures whose impact on the physico-chemical properties and processes is of paramount importance. The topic of organic soils was often considered in most of the agrochemistry, landscape ecology, organic growing media, humic´substances, and soil science meetings all around the world. However this has been the first occasion, here at the EGU meeting in Vienna, to hold a special session concerning the physical, chemical and biological properties of organic soils.

Its purpose was to advance the research and the knowledge on peat systems and to provide a forum for scientists interested in this subject. Moreover, session organizers intended to encourage chemists, biochemists, biologists, who study the conversions and transformations of organic matter in organic soils, to communicate and cooperate with each other. Widening of the knowledge on the chemical composition, molecular and functional nature of humic materials will certainly contribute to a better understanding of the physical and chemical properties of these substances. It is worth mentioning that this session was addressed to young scientists who have been involved in this field only recently.
During this session the most recent progresses and advancements in soil physics, soil chemistry, soil biochemistry, and soil microbiology of organic soils and their interactions with various components have been extensively discussed. Results presented during the session demonstrated that humic substances draw attention of scientists from different disciplines and that several problems can only be solved through multidisciplinary work. Moreover, numerous studies on chemical and physical properties of organic soils are still being carried out in order to understand their function in the environment. It was shown that the information presented during the session on processes, mechanisms and utilization of organic soils will provide a stimulating background for the development of physical and chemical properties of organic soils in the future.

The presentations revealed that peat contains relatively unstable substances, whose reactivity contributes to its usefulness. Several abstracts described that the physiological activity of peats stimulate and promote plant growth. In addition, the presentations showed that peat can readily undergo ion-exchange, recombinations, and separations, and there is a large variety of lithotypes. This variability concerns their behavior with respect to water, and particularly: (a) swelling and drying properties; (b) thixotropic properties; (c) ability to change status between sol and gel, and dissolve or become suspended; and (d) irreversible loss of swelling properties, and wettability, when peat muds are dried. The results presented during the session concerning the processes, mechanisms and utilization of organic soils were expected to provide a better insight into chemical and physical properties of organic soils and help to explain their function in the environment.

Selected papers from the session will be published in the special issue of Plant and Soil.

Publishing Activity

Agronomy Research published the first part of the papers, presented during the session organized by III Commission of IPS on “Restoration of Peatland Soils for Agricultural Use”, during the 5th European Conference on Ecological Restoration, Land use changes in Europe as a challenge for restoration, Greifswald, August 22-25, 2006.

In 2007 a number of members of Commission III carried out investigations, the results of which were published in the following scientific journals: Agronomy Research, Agrophysics International, Biology and Fertility of Soils, Geoderma, Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science and others.

In 2007 members of Commission III of IPS (prof. T. Brandyk, dr. J. Szatyłowicz, dr. T. Gnatowski, and dr. R. Oleszczuk) took part in the 27th Congress on the 70-years Jubilee of the Polish Society of Soil Science and the International Scientific Conference (3-7 September 2007 Warsaw Agricultural University). During the Congress Dr. R. Oleszczuk gave an oral presentation on “The analytical description of shrinkage curves in selected moorsh deposits”. What is more, Dr. T. Gnatowski also presented a poster on “The analysis of retention and hydraulic properties in a soil profile developed from willow peat”.

In 2007, the monograph entitled “Wetlands, Monitoring, Modeling and Management” edited by T. Okruszko, E. Maltby, J. Szatyłowicz, D. Świątek and W. Kotowski (Balkema, Taylor & Francis) was published. The monograph contains 46 scientific papers which are divided into 3 main chapters (monitoring, modeling, management). Members of IPS Commission III published two papers in this monograph: (1) Szatyłowicz J., Gnatowski T., Szejba D., Oleszczuk R., Brandyk T., and Kechavarzi C.: “Moisture content variability in drained fen soil”, 113-120; (2) Oleszczuk R., Gnatowski T., Brandyk T., and Szatyłowicz J.: “Calibration of TDR for moisture content monitoring in moorsh layers”, 121-124.

Dr. R. Oleszczuk (the secretary of IPS Commission III) was in 2007 still involved as a member of the Working Group on Peatlands and Climate Change of the International Peat Society. The main objective of this group is to prepare the book “Peatlands and Climate Changes” which will be addressed to researchers, students, journalists and policymakers. The aforementioned book will contain 9 chapters. Dr. R. Oleszczuk is the chapter co-ordinator on “Impacts of agricultural utilization of peat soils on greenhouse gas balance”. In addition prof. L. Szajdak (Head of Commission III of IPS) is also involved in writing the chapter. The Working Group on Peatlands and Climate Changes organized two meeting (Tullamore, Ireland, 7-8.03.2007; Riga, Latvia, 24-25.05.2007), where the members of this group presented and discussed the final materials for each chapter of this book.

Conclusion

Prof. Lech Szajdak, the chairman of the Commission III would like to express his gratitude to the members who participated in the meetings and the people who have worked voluntary for Commission III.

Annual Report 2006

General information

The commission members continued investigations on the agricultural use of peat and peatlands and published their results in numerous presentations and publications.

Publishing activity

A conference on “Physical and chemical properties of organic soils” was held in Biebrza-Rajgrod in 2005. A report of this meeting written by Lech Szajdak and Jan Szatyłowicz was published in Postepy Nauk Rolniczych. The conclusions drawn from this conference were published in Peatlands International, 2006, 2, 38-41.

Monograph on Physical and chemical properties of organic soils

The monograph entitled “Physical and chemical properties of organic soils” edited by Tomasz Brandyk, Lech Szajdak and Jan Szatylowicz was published in February 2007. The monograph, 265 pages long, contains 27 papers which are divided into 4 main chapters.

The chapters focus on the following topics: chemical and physical properties of organic soils, hydrophobicity of organic soils, utilization and properties of organic sols and physical properties of organic soils. In the monograph, the authors review the heterogenic properties of humus in organic soils, which contains chemical compounds having both undefined and welldefined structures. By utilization of chemical composition and molecular structure of humic substances, the authors aim to point out the significance of these raw materials in agriculture, horticulture, balneology and chemistry.

Session on Restoration of Peatland Soils for Agricultural Use

Commission III organized a session on “Restoration of Peatland Soils for Agricultural Use” during the 5th European Conference on “Ecological Restoration, Land use changes in Europe as a challenge for restoration” in Greifswald on 22 - 25 August 2006. The session focused on the processes and mechanisms in peat that occur as a result of agriculture use. Long-term intensive cultivation and agricultural use of peatlands leads to degradation and mineralization of peat organic matter and initiates a moorshing process.

The discussion concentrated on natural aspects of restoration of peatland soils for agricultural use. The participants of the sessions raised the following issues: the species composition of the sward and the physicochemical properties of peat muck soils; changes in the structure of nitrogen-containing compounds of peat, sapropel, brown coal and organic fertilizers; the analysis of shrinkage-swelling behavior of peat moorsh soil aggregates during drying-wetting cycles; impact of secondary transformation of peat moorsh soils on the process of purification of ground water; chemical properties of different peat moorsh soils in the Biebrza River Valley; the comparison of soil moisture content changes in the moorsh layer under shrubs and grass vegetation; occurrence of auxin in some organic soils; transfer of substance between groundwater in peat soils and surface water in the drainage channels; and structural studies of peat humic and fulvic acids by fluorescence spectroscopy as well as analysis of the influence of peatland and human activities on groundwater quality. Selected papers from this session will be published in scientific international journals.

Research Activity

During 2006, Prof. T. Brandyk, Dr. J. Szatyłowicz, Dr. T. Gnatowski, Dr D. Szejba and Dr. R. Oleszczuk, who are members of Commission III, participated in the European project “Tools and scenarios for sustainable management of European peat soils to protect associated landscapes and natural areas in relation to agricultural production”. The project started at the end of the year 2002 and finished at the end of February 2006.

Six European countries were involved in the investigations. The main aim was to determine the decomposition and degradation of peat soils and find ways to protect these soils. As a result of the investigations, the Polish team prepared two papers:

• Oleszczuk R., Gnatowski T., Brandyk T., Szatyłowicz J.: Calibration of TDR for moisture content monitoring in moorsh layers

• Szatyłowicz J., Gnatowski T., Szejba D., Oleszczuk R., Brandyk T.: Moisture content variability in drained fen soil to the monograph “Wetlands: modeling, monitoring and management”

Additionally, the publication from this project, entitled “Hydraulic properties of fen peat soils in Poland” by Gnatowski T., Szatyłowicz J., Brandyk T. was submitted to a special issue of Geoderma.

In 2006, Dr. R. Oleszczuk, Secretary of Commission III, was involved in the IPS Working Group on Peatlands and Climate Change. Its main objective is to prepare the book “Peatlands and Climate Change” consisting of 9 chapters, which are addressed to researchers, students, journalists and policymakers. Dr. R. Oleszczuk will coordinate the chapter “Impacts of agricultural utilization of peat soils on greenhouse gas balance”. In addition, Prof. L. Szajdak, Chair of Commission III, is involved in the work on this chapter.

The Working Group held two meetings in 2006, in Helsinki, Finland on 1 February and Frankfurt/Main, Germany on 2 June 2006, where the members of the group discussed the aims, materials and structure of the book. The assessement report will be officially launched at the International Peat Congress in Ireland 2008.

Plans

Commission III has been involved in planning a scientific session on “Organic Soils, Processes, Mechanisms and Utilization” (SSS4) during the General Assembly 2007 of the European Geosciences Union, which is going to be held in Vienna, Austria on 15 - 20 April 2007.

The organizers of the session are Lech Szajdak (convener), Teodore Miano and Joachim Blankenburg (co-conveners). The session is going to focus on conversions, mechanisms and utilization of organic soils, including peat (low moor and high moor peat), mire, gyttja and muck. The authors/contributors of the 27 abstracts submitted to the Organizing Committee represent the following countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Russia and USA.

The abstracts include wide aspects of organic soils: peat, moorshes and sapropels; their chemical and physical properties and utilization. Selected papers will be published in a scientific international journal. For more detailed information, please visit the official website of the European Geosciences Union, General Assembly 2007:
http://meetings.copernicus.org/egu2007/.

Conclusion

I would like to thank once again the participants and voluntary workers of Commission III.

Annual Report 2005

Micro meetings of the commission

Four micro meetings of the Commission were held since the last report was published. The first one, held in Estonia, aimed to discover ways of achieving sustainable use of peatlands. The discussions concentrated on more effective recycling through the contents of plant hormones in plants which form peat, peat deposits, organic fertilizers created on the basis of peat and sapropel and crop yield of cultivated plants. In addition, they also raised the issue of the best methods of minimizing degradation of the environment. Plants hormones are considered to be extremely important in crop yield and an increase in soil productivity.

Moreover these compounds play a considerable role in nature due to their influence on regulation of plant growth and their development. In order to achieve the highest crops, the content of plant hormones in peat, sapropel, compost, organic fertilizers, and growing media should be regulated by the best known techniques. These techniques are based on regulation of the amount of organic fertilizers and timing of its application depending on plants’ properties, climate and soil conditions. During the meeting, attention was focused on achieving a good yield by reducing plant hormone losses and making an effective use of the application of organic fertilizers.

The next meetings took place in Belarus and Poland. The main aim of these discussions was to develop analytical methods for the investigation of amphiphilic properties of humic substances from organic soils. The amphiphilic properties have influence on water holding capacity. Moreover they are responsible for many significant physicochemical properties. The meetings were focused on numerous aspects of procedure, including accurate, resolution, sensitivity, and selectivity of analytical methods.

The German-Poland meeting concerned the role of peatland. Peatlands are special elements of the landscape, which constitute a biogeochemical barrier and create a special microclimate, which is important for agricultural production. Moreover they limit pollution and control the circulation of chemical compounds between ecosystems. The goal of the meeting was to establish the role of peatlands on the basis of various forms of nitrogen conversions, such as: total nitrogen, ammonium, nitrate, activity of enzymes, which participate in the cycle of nitrogen and the chemical structure of humic substances. Additionally, numerous aspects of plant regulations in growing media were discussed.
The next Ukraine-Poland meeting was devoted to the topic of biologically active substances in peats and their significance in an ophthalmology treatment. More adequate knowledge of the chemical structure of humic materials extracted from peats will help us understand its physiological influence on health and provide us with better information on the chemical structure of humic substances in peats, which are responsible for pharmacotherapeutic, pharmacokinetic and biopharmaceutical effects. The structure of humic and fulvic acids creates suitable conditions for nutrient uptake and bioavailability of biologically active substances. The phenomenon of solubilization in water by humic materials of organic substances, which are otherwise water-insoluble, interests many chemists involved in research on the role of the organic matter. It has been proved that humic substances in peat can “complex” with several biologically active substances thereby modifying their physiological activity. It is worth mentioning that fulvic acids can “fix” high-molecular weight water-insoluble organic compounds and make them water-soluble. Fulvic acids may also act as a vehicle for the mobilization, transport and immobilization of such substances in physiological conditions. It is necessary to carry out more fundamental research in order to investigate their pharmacological, pharmacokinetic and biopharmaceutical properties, which may be significant for human health.

Several members of the third commission were involved in the organization of the first Polish conference on “Chemical and physical properties of organic soils” Rajgród-Biebrza, 27-30 June 2005 and participated in deliberations of its scientific committee.

This year, many members of the commission III carried out research, the results of which were published in the following scientific journals: Agronomy Research, Agrophysics International, Biology and Fertility of Soils, Geoderma, Soil Biology and Biochemistry and Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science and others.

Project EUROPEAT

Moreover, the members of the IPS Commission III presented their activities in the international project EUROPEAT. The partners from the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Germany, UK and Norway in 2005 progressed their research on “Tools and scenarios for sustainable management of European peat soils to protect associated landscapes and natural areas in relation to agricultural production” – QLRT – 2001-01835. The field experiments have been conducted for a year. The following data was collected: meteorological, hydrological, nutrient factor contents in surface and ground water, physical soil properties, vertical soil movements due to shrinkage, consolidation and mineralization. A data base containing peat soil properties and the results of field experiments on soil water management was constructed. The model SWAP-ANIMO, which takes into consideration the processes of subsidence and greenhouse gases emission and describes the water flow and nutrients in peat soils, is verified in various environmental conditions.

Doctor Honoris Causa

We would like to congratulate Prof. Tomasz Brandyk, member of our commission, and its chairman during the years 2000-2004, on the award of Doctor Honoris Causa. Please accept our warmest wishes for your future success.

Conclusion

Dr. Lech Szajdak, the chairman of the Commission III, would like to express his gratitude towards the members who participated in the meetings and the people who have worked voluntary for the Commission III.

Annual Report 2004

Membership

IPS members in all countries who are interested in the topics of Commission III are requested to help promote and develop its activities. The membership of Commission III is dominated mostly by university researchers from the following 10 countries: Belarus, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Russia and the Ukraine.

12th International Peat Congress

During the 12th International Peat Congress in Tampere, former and new members of the Commission agreed to continue their interest in base line problems related to the “utilisation of peat and peatlands in agriculture.
Commission members played a very active part in the Tampere Congress by providing a total of 22 contributions, equally divided between oral and poster presentations. All of these are included in the proceedings of the Congress and are representative of the wide spectrum of the topic “ utilisation of peat and peatlands in agriculture”. Members of Commission III were also among those selected to chair various sessions at this great IPS event.

Histic Soils Working Group

The Histic Soils working group will continue to focus its work on the role of organic soils in modern agriculture, with soil quality as a main topic. The results obtained should provide a better insight of classification systems and indexes of agricultural productivity on histic soils, as well as the parameters of processes that control their resistance to degradation and their role as biological barriers or buffers.

Other research activities

In addition to the results presented during the Tampere Congress, several contributions have been submitted to or published in the following famous international scientific journals: Acta Agrophysica, Geoderma, International Agrophysics, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Sciences, Journal of Environmental Quality, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Telma and others. Some of the results published in the Congress Proceedings and in the international journals mentioned above deal with problems concerning the rewetting and restoration of intensively cultivated fens. Such cultivation leads to the mineralisation and humification of the peat by a variety of microbial soil species, resulting in the evolution of greenhouse gases which cause significant depletion of the Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer and contribute to the warming of the Earth’s surface. The increase of mineralisation processes is associated with the nature and activity of the biotic system. The many groups of organisms that inhabit fens are generally grouped, according to their size and structure, into macrofauna, microfauna, mesofauna and microbiota and may contribute significantly to the physical fragmentation of the fen and to nutrient cycling. The dynamics are affected by the rate of mineralisation, immobilisation, leaching. root exudates and plant uptake.  Biochemical and chemical processes are responsible for the formation of humic micromolecules, which are characterised by a macromolecular structure with aromatic and aliphatic units. Various biochemical and chemical mechanisms are involved in the process of the degradation or cleavage of these macromolecules.

Several physicochemical parameters such as temperature, moisture, contents of oxygen and hydrogen, soil density and biochemical activity impact on the conversion of organic matter. This makes the study of  organic matter even more important. A conceptual view of biochemical transformation of organic matter in soil concerns the amount of organic matter going through different stages of degradation, from coarse dead plant material to evolved humified organic matter. Many of the functional groups of organic matter are acidic and deprotonated, resulting in anionic charged matter which facilitates its solubility and ability to complex with metals and biologically active substances. These processes result in quality and quantity changes in the physicochemical properties of fens and in the spatial allocation of mineral post-fen soils. The decrease in the rates of mineralisation and of loss of organic matter, which may have an impact on the availability of nutrients for plant growth, could limit the adverse effects associated with fen cultivation.

Several investigations have dealt with the problem of changes in the amphiphilic character of substances in peat-muck soils. Amphiphilic properties of humic substances are responsible for their solubility, viscosity, filtration, conformation, surfactant-like character, dispersion forces, electrostatic interaction, hydrogen bonding and a variety of physicochemical properties of considerable practical significance. These properties are strongly connected with water-holding capacity and are dependant on the secondary transformation of peat–muck soils. In particular, this process of secondary transformation in peat-muck soils is significantly linked with water-holding capacity, surface charge and differentiation of bound amino acids. The amino acids, present in the form of protein, peptides and heterocycles, can be bound to humic substances via hydrogen bonds and/or phenolic products of lignin degradation, usually surrounded by protein coats. Therefore, attractive interactions occur between proteins and amino acids and organic colloids. Different kinds of functional groups of humic substances have been identified in natural organic matter, and play a key role in the adsorption of water molecules . Therefore, the values of monolayer (or specific surface area) may provide information about these functional groups.

The relative amphiphilic character of organic colloids of humic substances can be important in modifying the structure of water films and in affecting their interactions with micro-organisms. Hydrophilic or hydrophobic regions, which are the result of the presence in the organic matter of lipids, waxes, amines, amino sugars, polysaccharides, amides, amino acids, aromatic structural units and other moieties, can interact with amphiphilic regions of the microbial surface or may render inorganic particles, such as clay minerals, hydrophobic centres when complexes between these inorganic and organic components are formed. The stabilization and degradation of soil structure depends on biological activity. In response to the formation of soil structure, pores of different size and function are created. Macropores (diameter>2x10-5m) are responsible for drainage and aeration of soils and are characterised by the presence of roots and live meso- and microfauna. Mesopores (1x10-7-2x10-5m) contain the available plant water, bacteria, fungi and root hairs whereas the micropores (<1x10-7m) contain adsorbed and intercrystalline water. Finally, all these in-depth processes and parameters are focused, as properties, on the shrinkage and swelling behaviour of peat soils.

Plant hormones, called “plant growth regulators”, are considered to be of importance in crop yield and for increasing soil productivity. These compounds seem to have an important function in nature as a result of their influence on the regulation of plant growth and development. A principal feature of the plant hormone indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) is its ability to impact on root growth, development and the health of plants. This compound affects root morphology (root hairs) and metabolic changes in the host plant. The physiological impact of this substance is involved in cell elongation, apical dominance, root initiation, parthenocarpy, abscission, callus formation and respiration. Natural processes of organic matter transformation in peat and sapropel lead to the formation of humic substances.  Some kinds of peat and sapropel are commonly used for the preparation of organic fertilisers for agriculture and horticulture, as well as for growing media. The concentrations of IAA in high- and low moor peatlands and in sapropels have been shown to depend on their chemical composition, mainly on the content of humus substances. The relations between the content of IAA and the percentage of nitrogen in organic matter, and also C/N ratios, were well correlated.

Activities of members of IPS Commission III also include participation in several projects such as EUROPEAT – “Tools and scenarios for sustainable management of European peat soils to protect associated landscapes and natural areas in relation to agricultural production” Researchers from Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom are participating in theses investigations. Some other projects are supported by national scientific institutions and organisations.

Cooperation

As a result of the meetings in Tampere and Amsterdam in 2004, Dr. Lech Szajdak, Chair of Commission III, and Prof. Line Rochefort, Chair of Commissiom V, decided to co-organize a symposium on “Exploring the future of reclaimed fen systems: ecological restoration and sustainable use” in Greifswald, Germany in 2006. A post-symposium field trip to restoration sites in the picturesque Biebrza National Park in Poland is predicted. The International Mire conservation Group  (IMCG) and the Society of Ecological Restoration International (SERi –section Europe) will also be cordially invited to participate in the organisation of this symposium. A round table discussion is planned for the meeting of Commission Chairs in Warsaw in May 2005.

To benefit further from the promotion of joint investigations between IPS Commissions , Dr. Lech Szajdak, Chair of Commission III and Prof. Nikolay N. Bambalov, Chair of Commission IV have agreed to establish in-depth co-operation on the identification and determination of plant hormones in some different types of peat and sapropel.
Conclusions  

I wish to thank all members who have participated in Commission III meetings and all those who have done voluntary work for the Commission and its Working Group.


Annual Report 2003

Research Activities

The commission members continued to take part in an active analysis, presentation and publication of their research results on the agricultural use of peat and peatlands. Several results were submitted for publication to well known international journals such as: Geoderma, Humic Substances in Ecosystems, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science and others.

These investigations dealt with the problems of secondary transformation of peat-muck soils, water holding capacity and surface change of peat material, hydrophobicity of peat soils and also with the influence of load on shrinkage behavior of peat soils.

Due to oscillation of ground water level, changes of aerobic conditions, which accelerate the process of mineralization, different plant communities, root uptake and compounds created as a result of the degradation of the plant remains, peat-muck soils undergo the process of a secondary transformation. It was observed, that the type of the soil material influenced the differentiation of muck formation, particularly according to the degree of degradation and botanical composition of the peat.

The degree of the peat transformation was evaluated on the basis of the phenomenon of irreversible drying, of the character of the genetic layers and their thickness, as well as by the index of water adsorptivity. Muck formation was divided into different classes according to the differentiated mineral content and the advancement of secondary transformation as determined by the numerical values of the water holding index. It was also proved that the process of secondary transformation of peat-muck soils is strongly connected with the water holding capacity, surface change and differentiation of organic nitrogen compounds.

Expression of changes taking place in peat due to the muck-forming process is, among others, the progressive differentiation of hydrophobic properties of organic compounds. The content of high hydrophobic nitrogen compounds impacts on the structure of organic colloids and also on the presence of exchangeable cations adsorbed on the surface of these colloids. These properties characterizes soil differentiation with respect to water binding abilities. This concept has been introduced with the assumption that the peat mass is transformed due to drying and wetting processes.

The contents of phytohormone in commercial growing media prepared on the basis of peat and sapropel was estimated. Some kinds of peat and sapropel are widely used for the preparation of fertilizers applied in agriculture and horticulture. Biologically active substances react on the production and the quality of the crop. Phytohormones are involved in producing a variety of diverse plant growth and in making a significant contribution to the development of responses for seed germination and plant growth. The highest concentrations of this hormone were estimated for sapropels and the lowest for low moor peatlands. The correlation between the concentrations of the hormone and the content of humic substances was also shown.

The results of volumetric shrinkage behavior and the geometry factor at various loads in sedge and alder peat soils were studied and analyzed. The measurements were conducted on undisturbed soil samples without applying a load and with loads corresponding to field overburden. The shapes of the shrinkage characteristics of such soils were completely different from those of clay soils. The applications of loads did not significantly influence the shrinkage characteristic curve. The applied load strongly influenced the relationship between the shrinkage geometry factor and the moisture ratio, showing higher values of subsidence and lower values of crack volume in comparison with unloaded conditions.

The EUROPEAT Project

EUROPEAT is the acronym of a European project that started at the end of 2002 in the Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources programme. The duration of the project is 42 months. The full title of the project is “Tools and scenarios for sustainable management of European peat soils to protect associated landscapes and natural areas in relation to agricultural production”. The institutions involved in the agricultural use of peatlands from the following countries are participants in the project: The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Germany. The main objective of the project is to elucidate the processes determining the rate of subsidence, oxidation and release of nutrients and greenhouse gasses from peat soils, to develope tools to improve the prediction of the effect of land use and water management and global climate change on these processes, and to assess the socio-economic impact that environmentally-driven changes in peat soil management will have. The specific objectives of the project were presented by Ir. Jan van den Akker - project coordinator - in Peatlands International 1/2003. The research activities in the project during the year 2003 were concentrated on the collection of available data from field and laboratory experiments on different peat soils under different land use, climatic and water management conditions in Europe, using field trials, lysimeter and laboratory experiments and mesurements.

Cooperation

The cooperation between Commissions III and IV (Chemical, Physical and Biological Characteristics of Peat) was continued during the year 2003. Dr. Lech Szajdak visited Minsk and worked in collaboration with the researches of the Institute for Problems of Natural Resources Use and Ecology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The results of this cooperation are planned to be presented during the International Peat Congress in Tampere 2004.

Conclusion

Dr. Tomasz Brandyk, as chair person for Commission III, would like to express his thanks to all of the members who have actively participated in Commission III meetings and to all of those who have done voluntary research and organizational work for Commission III and its working groups.
 

 

FNS