Plant and Soil

, Volume 366, Issue 1–2, pp 185–198 | Cite as

The contribution of crop residues to changes in soil pH under field conditions

  • C. R. Butterly
  • J. A. Baldock
  • C. Tang
Regular Article


Background and Aims

Crop residues are important for the redistribution of alkalinity within soils. A net increase in pH following residue addition to soil is typically reported. However, effects are inconsistent in the field due to confounding soil processes and agronomic practises.


A column experiment investigated the effects of canola, chickpea and wheat residues, differing in alkalinity content and C:N ratio, on soil pH changes in a Podosol (Podzol; initial pH 4.5) and Tenosol (Cambisol; initial pH 6.2) under field conditions.


Residues (10 g dry matter kg-1 soil; 0–10 cm) increased soil pH, and temporal changes in alkalinity depended on the residue and soil type. Alkalinity was generated via abiotic association reactions between H+ and added organic matter and via ammonification and decarboxylation processes during decomposition. Alkalinity from canola and chickpea residues moved down the soil profile (10–30 cm) and was attributed to nitrate immobilisation and organic anion decomposition by soil microbes.


The application of residues to acid and moderately acid soils increased the pH of both topsoil and subsoils, which persisted over 26 months. Maximal increase of pH observed at 3 months was correlated with the concentration of excess cations in the residues.


Decomposition Initial pH Long-term Nitrogen cycle Soluble alkalinity Soil acidification Soil type 



We are grateful to Bhawana Bhatta-Kaudal, Fatima Rukshana, Giang Nguyen (Jenny) and Xiaojuan Wang who helped with sampling and analyses throughout the study. We also thank Dr Gary Clark for assistance with instrumentation, particularly ICP-OES. This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project fund (DP0877882).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural SciencesLaTrobe UniversityBundooraAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture FlagshipCSIRO Land and Water, PMB 2Glen OsmondAustralia

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