Relative importance of substrate type and previous soil management in synthesis of microbial biomass and substrate mineralization

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Abaye, D. A. and Brookes, P. C. 2006. Relative importance of substrate type and previous soil management in synthesis of microbial biomass and substrate mineralization. European Journal of Soil Science. 57 (2), pp. 179-189.

AuthorsAbaye, D. A. and Brookes, P. C.
Abstract

Our aim was to determine whether the soil microbial biomass, which has developed naturally over many years in a given ecosystem, is specially adapted to metabolize the plant-derived substrate C of the ecosystem within which it developed or whether the nature of recently added substrate is the more important factor. To examine this, soils from three sites in close proximity (woodland, grassland and arable from the Broadbalk Experiment at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK) were each amended with air-dried wheat straw (Triticum aestivum), ryegrass leaves (Lolium perenne) or woodland leaf litter (mainly Quercus robur and Fagus sylvatica) in a fully replicated 3 x 3 factorial laboratory experiment. The initial mineralization rates (evolved CO2-C) were determined during the first 6.5 hours and again, together with the amount of microbial biomass synthesized (microbial biomass C), at 7, 14, 21, 30 and 49 days of incubation. The hourly rate of CO2-C production during the first 6.5 hours was slowest following leaf litter addition, while the added grass gave the fastest rates of CO2-C evolution both within and between soils. Ryegrass addition to the arable soil led to approximately four times more CO2-C being evolved than when it was added to the woodland soil, at an overall rate in the arable soils of 41 mu g C g(-1) soil hour(-1). In each soil, the net amounts of CO2-C produced were in the order grass > straw > leaf litter. In each case, the amount produced by the added leaf litter was significantly less (P < 0.05) than either the added grass or straw. Overall, the trend was for much slower rates of mineralization of all substrates in the woodland soil than in either the arable or grassland soils. During 49 days of incubation in the woodland and grassland soils, the net total amounts of CO2-C evolved differed significantly (P < 0.01), with grass > straw > leaf litter, respectively. In the arable soil, the amounts of CO2-C evolved from added grass and straw were significantly larger (P < 0.01) than from the leaf litter treatment. Our findings indicated that the amounts of CO2-C evolved were not related to soil management or to the size of the original biomass but to the substrate type. The amount of biomass C synthesized was also in the order grass > straw > leaf litter, at all stages of incubation in the woodland and grassland soil. In the arable soil, the same effect was observed up to 14 days, and for the rest of the incubation the biomass C synthesized was in the order grass > straw > leaf litter. Up to three times more biomass C was synthesized from the added grass than from the other substrates in all soils throughout the incubation. The maximum biomass synthesis efficiency was obtained with grass (7% of added C). Overall, the woodland soil was most efficient at synthesizing biomass C and the arable soil the least. We conclude that substrate type was the overriding factor that determined the amount of new soil microbial biomass synthesized. Mineralization of substrate C by soil microorganisms was also influenced mainly by substrate type and less by soil management or size of original biomass.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication2006
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Journal citation57 (2), pp. 179-189
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1111/j.1365-2389.2005.00727.x
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or code511
Project: 4282
ISSN13510754
1351-0754
PublisherWiley

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