Nitrogen mineralization and denitrification as influenced by crop residue particle size

P. Ambus, E.S. Jensen

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch


    Managing the crop residue particle size has the potential to affect N conservation in agricultural systems. We investigated the influence of barley (Hordeum vulgare) and pea (Pisum sativum) crop residue particle size on N mineralization and denitrification in two laboratory experiments. Experiment 1: N-15-labelled ground (less than or equal to 3 mm) and cut (25 mm) barley residue, and microcrystalline cellulose+glucose were mixed into a sandy loam soil with additional inorganic N. Experiment 2: inorganic N-15 and C2H2 were added to soils with barley and pea material after 3, 26, and 109 days for measuring gross N mineralization and denitrification.

    Net N immobilization over 60 days in Experiment 1 cumulated to 63 mg N kg(-1) soil (ground barley), 42 (cut barley), and 122 (cellulose+glucose). More N was seemingly net mineralized from ground barley (3.3 mg N kg(-1) soil) than from cut barley (2.7 mg N kg(-1) soil). Microbial biomass peaked at day 4 with the barley treatments and at day 14 with the cellulose+glucose whereafter the biomass leveled out at values 79 mg C kg(-1) (ground), 104 (cut), and 242 (cellulose+glucose) higher than for the control soil. Microbial growth yields were similar for the two barley treatments, ca. 60 mg C g(-1) substrate C added, which was lower than the 142 mg C g(-1) C added with cellulose+glucose. This suggests that the 75% (w/w) holocelluloses and sugars contained with the barley material remained physically protected despite grinding. In Experiment 2 gross mineralization on day 3 was 4.8 mg N kg(-1) d(-1) with ground pea, twice as much as for all other treatments. On day 26 the treatment with ground barley had the greatest gross N mineralization. In static cores ground barley denitrified Ii-fold more than did cut barley, whereas denitrification was similar for the two pea treatments. In suspensions denitrification was similar for the two treatments both with barley and pea residue.

    We conclude that the higher microbial activity associated with the initial decomposition of ground plant material is due to a more intimate plant residue-soil contact. On the long term, grinding the plant residues has no significant effect on N dynamics.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)261-270
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


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