Soil acidification during more than 100 years under permanent grassland and woodland at Rothamsted

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Johnston, A. E., Goulding, K. W. T. and Poulton, P. R. 1986. Soil acidification during more than 100 years under permanent grassland and woodland at Rothamsted. Soil Use and Management. 2 (1), pp. 3-10.

AuthorsJohnston, A. E., Goulding, K. W. T. and Poulton, P. R.

Soil samples have been taken periodically from unlimed plots of the 130‐year‐old Park Grass Experiment and from the 100‐year‐old Geescroft Wilderness at Rothamsted. Changes in the pH of the samples show how acidification has progressed. The soils are now at, or are approaching, equilibrium pH values which depend on the acidifying inputs and on the buffering capacities of the soils. We have calculated the contributions to soil acidification of natural sources of acidity in the soil, atmospheric deposition, crop growth and nutrient removal, and, where applicable, additions of fertilizers. The relative importance of each source of acidification has changed as the soils have become more acid. Acid rain (wet deposited acidity) is a negligible source, but total atmospheric deposition may comprise up to 30% of acidifying inputs at near neutral soil pH values and more as soil pH decreases. Excepting fertilizers, the greatest causes of soil acidification at or near neutral pH values are the natural inputs of H+ from the dissolution of CO2 and subsequent dissociation of carbonic acid, and the mineralization of organic matter.

Under grassland, single superphosphate and small amounts of sodium and magnesium sulphates have had no effect on soil pH, whilst potassium sulphate increased soil acidity slightly. All of these effects are greatly outweighed under grassland, however, by those of nitrogen fertilizers. Against a background of acidification from atmospheric, crop and natural inputs, nitrogen applied as ammonium sulphate decreased soil pH up to a maximum of 1.2 units at a rate in direct proportion to the amount added, and nitrogen applied as sodium nitrate increased soil pH by between 0.5 and 1 unit.


KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication1986
JournalSoil Use and Management
Journal citation2 (1), pp. 3-10
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print31 Mar 1986
British Society of Soil Science (BSSS)
Copyright licensePublisher copyright

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