Impact of the addition of different plant residues on nitrogen mineralization–immobilization turnover and carbon content of a soil incubated under laboratory conditions
Abstract. Application of plant residues as soil amendment may represent a valuable recycling strategy that affects carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling in soil–plant systems. The amount and rate of nutrient release from plant residues depend on their quality characteristics and biochemical composition. A laboratory incubation experiment was conducted for 120 days under controlled conditions (25 °C and 58% water-filled pore space) to quantify initial biochemical composition and N mineralization of leguminous and non-leguminous plant residues, i.e., the roots, shoots and leaves of Glycine max, Trifolium repens, Zea mays, Populus euramericana, Robinia pseudoacacia and Elaeagnus umbellata, incorporated into the soil at the rate of 200 mg residue N kg−1 soil. The diverse plant residues showed a wide variation in total N, C, lignin, polyphenols and C / N ratio with higher polyphenol content in the leaves and higher lignin content in the roots. The shoot of Glycine max and the shoot and root of Trifolium repens displayed continuous mineralization by releasing a maximum of 109.8, 74.8 and 72.5 mg N kg−1 and representing a 55, 37 and 36% recovery of N that had been released from these added resources. The roots of Glycine max and Zea mays and the shoot of Zea mays showed continuous negative values throughout the incubation. After an initial immobilization, leaves of Populus euramericana, Robinia pseudoacacia and Elaeagnus umbellata exhibited net mineralization by releasing a maximum of 31.8, 63.1 and 65.1 mg N kg−1, respectively, and representing a 16, 32 and 33% N recovery, respectively. Nitrogen mineralization from all the treatments was positively correlated with the initial residue N contents (r = 0.89; p ≤ 0.01) and negatively correlated with lignin content (r = −0.84; p ≤ 0.01), C / N ratio (r = −0.69; p ≤ 0.05), lignin / N ratio (r = −0.68; p ≤ 0.05), polyphenol / N ratio (r = −0.73; p ≤ 0.05) and (lignin + polyphenol) : N ratio (r = −0.70; p ≤ 0.05) indicating a significant role of residue chemical composition and quality in regulating N transformations and cycling in soil. The present study indicates that incorporation of plant residues strongly modifies the mineralization–immobilization turnover (MIT) of soil that can be taken into account to develop synchronization between net N mineralization and crop demand in order to maximize N delivery and minimize N losses.