Microbial assimilation of 14C of ground and unground plant materials decomposing in a loamy sand and a clay soil

P. Sørensen, J.N. Ladd, M. Amato

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch


    The influence of grinding plant materials on the microbial decomposition and the distribution of plant-derived carbon in soil was measured. Ground and unground, C-14-labelled subclover leaves (Trifolium subterraneum) were added to a loamy sand and clay soil and incubated for 42 d at 25 degrees C. More C-14 and N were mineralized and less microbial biomass C-14 accumulated in soils amended with unground than with ground subclover leaves. Differences in the amounts of (CO2)-C-14 and biomass C-14 were established during the initial 7 days of decomposition. At this time, biomass C-14 in the two soils accounted for 18-19% of the input C-14 of unground leaves, and 22% of that of ground leaves. After 7 days of decomposition of subclover C-14, aliquots of the soils were gently dispersed and particles of diameters >50 mu m and <50 mu m were separated by wet sieving. Biomass C-14 in the fraction of particle sizes >50 mu m accounted fro 5-6% input C-14 in the loamy sand; the proportions were little affected by grinding of the clover leaf amendment. In contrast, the amounts of biomass C-14 in the fraction of particle sizes <50 mu m were larger with ground than with unground leaves added to soils. Thus, the increased amounts of biomass C-14 in soils amended with ground leaves were mainly associated with clay plus silt size particles and microaggregates. After 7 d of decomposition, non-biomass C-14 in the two soil fractions accounted for about 40% of input C-14, irrespective of soil type and particle size of the plant residue amendment. The early (<7 days) decomposition of the subclover leaves was compared with that of ground and unground, C-14-labelled wheat (Triticum aestivum) leaves and with that of [C-14]glucose. After 7 d decomposition, that was no significant effect of grinding of the wheat leaf material on the release of (CO2)-C-14, but as with subclover leaves, less biomass C-14 was formed in the soils amended with unground wheat material. The initial (1-2 days) release of (CO2)-C-14 from glucose exceeded that from wheat and subclover leaves. However, within 4 days in the clay soil, the rate of evolution of (CO2)-C-14 was least from glucose. Thus, the glucose-derived residual C-14, which was mainly present in microbial biomass, was to a higher degree retained in soil than residual C-14 from the decomposing plant materials. It is suggested that grinding of plant materials favours, on their addition to soil, a more intimate contact between the plant constituents and the soil matrix, thereby enhancing opportunities for the colonization by decomposer organisms that are more protected against predation. The greater associated of protected cells with the soil matrix results in a higher retention of substrate-derived C in the microbial biomass and a less extensive turnover of substrate C. Copyright (C) 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSoil Biology & Biochemistry
    Issue number10-11
    Pages (from-to)1425-1434
    Publication statusPublished - 1996

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Microbial assimilation of <sup>1</sup><sup>4</sup>C of ground and unground plant materials decomposing in a loamy sand and a clay soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this