Stabilization of carbon from maize in a sandy soil in a long-term experiment
LUDWIG,B., JOHN, B., ELLERBROCK, R., KAISER, M. & H. FLESSA
Eur. J. Soil Sci., 54:117-126 (2003)
The sequestration of carbon (C) in soil is not completely understood, and quantitative information about the amounts of organic carbon in the various fractions and their rates of turnover could improve understanding. We aimed (i) to quantify the amounts of C derived from maize at various depths in the soil in a long-term field experiment with and without fertilization using 13C/12C analysis, (ii) to model changes in the organic C, and (iii) to compare measured and modelled pools of C. The organic C derived from the maize was measured in soil samples collected to a depth of 65 cm from four plots, two of which had been under continuous maize and two under continuous rye during long-term field experiments with NPK and without fertilization. The fractionation procedures included particle–size fractionation and extractions in water and in pyrophosphate solution. We used the Rothamsted Carbon Model to model the dynamics of the carbon from 13C data. The amounts of C derived from maize in the Ap horizon after 39 years of continuous maize cropping were 9.5% of the total organic C (where unfertilized) and 14.0% where NPK had been applied. Fertilization did not affect the residence time of carbon in the soil. The amounts of C derived from maize in water extracts were 21% of the total organic C (where unfertilized) and 22% where NPK had been applied. The extracts that were soluble in pyrophosphate and insoluble in acid were depleted in C from maize (the amounts were 5% and 7% of the total organic C, respectively). The results of the 13C natural abundance technique were used to model the dynamics of the organic C. Both the total organic C and the C derived from maize in the particle size fraction 0 – 63 µm agreed well with the total and maize-derived sums of the model pools ‘inert organic matter’, ‘humified organic matter’ and ‘microbial biomass’. The model suggested that 64% (unfertilized) or 53% (NPK) of the organic C in the Ap horizon were inert. Only one of three published equations to determine the size of the inert pool agreed well with these model results.