Studies on decomposition of plant material in soil .2. Partial sterilization of soil and soil biomass

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Jenkinson, D. S. 1966. Studies on decomposition of plant material in soil .2. Partial sterilization of soil and soil biomass. Journal of Soil Science. 17 (2), pp. 280-302.

AuthorsJenkinson, D. S.

Soil samples taken during an experiment on the decomposition of 14C‐labelled ryegrass in soil under field conditions (see Part I) were air‐dried, irradiated, exposed to CHCl3 or CH3Br vapours, oven‐dried or autoclaved. After these treatments the soils were inoculated, incubated, and the output of CO2 measured. All these methods of partially (or, in some cases, completely) sterilizing soil rendered a small heavily labelled fraction of the soil organic matter decomposable. This fraction is postulated to be the soil biomass. Treatments involving heat or irradiation rendered small additional amounts of the soil organic matter decomposable (by processes other than the killing of organisms). Incubating unsterilized soil with partially sterilized soil did not decrease evolution of CO2. This suggests that partial sterilization does not increase mineralization by destroying toxic substances that inhibit microbial growth, or by disturbing a host: predator balance in the unsterilized soil. The longer the labelled ryegrass was allowed to decompose in the field, the less labelled‐CO2 was evolved after partial sterilization. In contrast, the same amount of unlabelled‐CO2 was evolved from a soil that had been incubated 1 or 4 years with ryegrass. The labelled part of the biomass is considered to be largely zymogenic (with a half life of approximately 1.5 years), the unlabelled part largely autochthonous, remaining almost constant over the 3‐year period. It is suggested that the size of the soil biomass can be roughly estimated from the size of the flush of CO2 after CHCl3 vapour treatment. Calculated on this basis, 2.3–3.5 Per cent the unlabelled‐C in these soils (i.e. the C present in the soil before the labelled ryegrass was added) was in the biomass. Of the original ryegrass C added, 10–12 per cent was in the biomass after 1 year, decreasing to 4 per cent after 4 years.

KeywordsRRES175; 175_Soil science
Year of Publication1966
JournalJournal of Soil Science
Journal citation17 (2), pp. 280-302
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as non-open access
British Society of Soil Science (BSSS)

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