Maize rhizosphere priming: field estimates using 13C natural abundance

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Introduction: Root-mediated changes in soil organic matter (SOM) decomposition, termed rhizosphere priming effects (RPE), play crucial roles in the global carbon (C) cycle, but their mechanisms and field relevance remain ambiguous. We hypothesize that nitrogen (N) shortages may intensify SOM decomposition in the rhizosphere because of increase of fine roots and rhizodeposition. Methods: RPE and their dependence on N-fertilization were studied using a C 3-to-C 4 vegetation change. N-fertilized and unfertilized soil cores, with and without maize, were incubated in the field for 50 days. Soil CO 2 efflux was measured, partitioned for SOM- and root-derived CO 2, and RPE was calculated. Plant biomass, microbial biomass C (MBC) and N (MBN), and enzyme activities (β-1,4-glucosidase; N-acetylglucosaminidase; L-leucine aminopeptidase) were analyzed. Results: Roots enhanced SOM mineralization by 35 % and 126 % with and without N, respectively. This was accompanied by higher specific root-derived CO 2 in unfertilized soils. MBC, MBN and enzyme activities increased in planted soils, indicating microbial activation, causing positive RPE. N-fertilization had minor effects on MBC and MBN, but it reduced β-1,4-glucosidase and L-leucine aminopeptidase activities under maize through lower root-exudation. In contrast, N-acetylglucosaminidase activity increased with N-fertilization in planted and unplanted soils. Conclusions: This study showed the field relevance of RPE and confirmed that, despite higher root biomass, N availability reduces RPE by lowering root and microbial activity.

ZeitschriftPlant and Soil
Seiten (von - bis)87-97
Anzahl der Seiten11
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.12.2016