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Nitrification activity in submerged soils and its relation to denitrification loss

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Nitrification activity (formation of NO 2 + NO 3 per unit soil weight) was measured in the surface layer of 15 presubmerged soils incubated in petri dishes under flooded but aerobic conditions. soils with pH above 5 nitrified quickly, whereas soils with pH below this level did not nitrify or nitrified slowly. The pH values between 7 and 8.5 were optimal for nitrification. Organic-matter levels in the 15 soils of our study did not influence their nitrification activities. In a follow-up greenhouse pot study, after a period of 3 weeks, 15N-balance measurements showed that the loss of N through apparent denitrification did not follow the nitrification patterns of the soils observed in the petri dishes. Apparent denitrification accounted for 16.8% and 18.9% loss of 15N from a soil with insignificant nitrification activity and a soil with high nitrification activity, respectively. These results, thus, indicate a lack of correspondence between the nitrification activities of soil and the denitrification loss of N when the former was measured in the dark and the latter was estimated in the light. Soils that nitrified in the darkness of the incubator did not nitrify in the daylight in the greenhouse.

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Correspondence to J. C. Katyal.

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Katyal, J.C., Carter, M.F. & Vlek, P.L.G. Nitrification activity in submerged soils and its relation to denitrification loss. Biol Fert Soils 7, 16–22 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00260726

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Key words

  • Nitrification activity
  • Submerged soils
  • Denitrification
  • 15N balance