Plant and Soil

, Volume 392, Issue 1–2, pp 17–25 | Cite as

Tracking the photosynthesized carbon input into soil organic carbon pools in a rice soil fertilized with nitrogen

  • Tida Ge
  • Chang Liu
  • Hongzhao Yuan
  • Ziwei Zhao
  • Xiaohong Wu
  • Zhenke Zhu
  • Phil Brookes
  • Jinshui Wu
Regular Article



Replenishment of soils with carbon (C) produced during photosynthesis plays an important role in global C cycling. Nitrogen (N) fertilization is critical for rice production, but its effects on the deposition of photosynthesis-derived C into soil C pools is poorly understood. To address this, we used continuous 14C-labeling to quantify the deposition of photosynthesis-derived C into various soil organic pools in a rice-soil system.


Rice (Oryza sativa L.) was continuously supplied with 14C-labeled CO2 (14C-CO2) for 36 days, with increasing N fertilizer rates (0 [N0], 10 [N10], 20 [N20], or 40 mg N kg−1 soil [N40], respectively).


Rice shoot and root biomass significantly increased following N fertilization. The amount of photosynthesis-derived C converted into soil organic carbon (14C-SOC) was proportional to the soil N concentration, and accounted for 8.0–19.3 % of rice biomass C. The 14C-SOC content was positively correlated with the rice root biomass, suggesting that N increased root exudation of photosynthesis-derived C. The amounts of 14C-labeled C in the dissolved organic carbon (14C-DOC) and in the microbial biomass carbon (14C-MBC), as proportions of 14C-SOC, were 3.9–7.8 and 6.6–24.0 %, respectively. The 14C-DOC, 14C-MBC, and 14C-SOC as proportions of total DOC, MBC, and SOC were 9.7–11.6, 6.9–10.6, and 0.37–1.71 %, respectively.


Nitrogen fertilization promotes deposition of photosynthesis-derived C into SOC pools in a rate-dependent manner. However, the 14C-MBC as a proportion of both 14C-SOC (14C-MBC/14C-SOC) and MBC (14C-MBC/MBC) increase during rice growth at lower N concentrations.


Soil organic C Rice N application rate 14C labeling Photo-assimilated C 



This study was supported financially by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB15020401), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41301275; 41430860) and the Research Fund of State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Nanjing Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Science (Y412201410). We thank Editage for editorial assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tida Ge
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chang Liu
    • 1
  • Hongzhao Yuan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ziwei Zhao
    • 1
  • Xiaohong Wu
    • 1
  • Zhenke Zhu
    • 1
  • Phil Brookes
    • 1
  • Jinshui Wu
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Changsha Research Station for Agricultural and Environmental Monitoring & Key Laboratory of Agro-ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesHunanChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesJiangshuChina
  3. 3.Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesChangshaChina

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