Rhizosphere Denitrification; A Minor Process but Indicator of Decomposition Activity

  • Søren Christensen
  • Peter Groffman
  • Arvin Mosier
  • Donald R. Zak
Part of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies Symposium Series book series (FEMS, volume 56)


The primary inputs of organic matter driving heterotrophic processes in soil are of plant origin. Microbial activity increases more than an order of magnitude when moving from the bulk soil through the rhizosphere towards the root surface (Brown, 1975; Helal and Sauerbeck, 1986). The composition of the soil microbial population (Rouatt et. al., 1960) and its denitrifying capability (Smith and Tiedje, 1979) show dramatic changes over this small distance in soil. Decomposition of recalcitrant soil organic matter can be stimulated in the rhizosphere (Helal and Sauerbeck, 1986) and grazing on soil microbes by soil animals is greatly increased in this environment (Clarholm, 1985). As members of the rhizosphere microbial community, the activity of denitrifying bacteria is expected to be dramatically affected by the presence of plants. Since the comprehensive work by Woldendorp (1963), several investigations in arable soil have shown a substantial influence of plants on denitrification (Bakken, 1988, Christensen 1985, Klemendtsson et. al., 1987, Von Rheinhaben and Troldenier, 1984 are more recent examples). Plants in waterlogged soil (Broadbent and Tusnem, 1971; Garcia, 1975; Reddy and Patrick, 1986) and algae in marine sediments (Andersen et. al., 1984) can also have a marked influence on denitrification. Some studies found no or weak influence of plants on denitrification (Haider et al., 1985; 1987).


Microbial Biomass Denitrification Rate Denitrification Activity Plant Effect Immobilization Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andersen, T.K., Jensen, M.B., and Sorensen, J., 1984, Diurnal variation of nitrogen cycling in coastal, marine sediments I. Denitrification. Mar. Biol. 83, 171–176.Google Scholar
  2. Bakken L.R. 1988. Denitrification under different cultivated plants: effects of soil moisture tension, nitrate concentration, and photosynthetic activity. Biol. Fert. Soils 6, 271–278.Google Scholar
  3. Barber, D.A., and Martin, J.K., 1976, The release of organic substances by cereal roots into soil. New Phytol. 76, 69–80.Google Scholar
  4. Broadbent, F.E., and Tusnem, M.E., 1971, Losses of nitrogen from some flooded soils in tracer experiments. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 35, 922–926.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, M.E., 1975, Rhizosphere microorganisms opprotunists, bandits or benefactors, in “Soil Microbiology,” N. Walker, ed., pp 21–38, Butterworth Scientific, London.Google Scholar
  6. Christensen, S., 1985, Denitrification in an acid soil: effects of slurry and potassium nitrate on the evolution of nitrous oxide and on nitrate reducing bacteria. Soil Biol. Biochem. 17, 757–764.Google Scholar
  7. Christensen, S., and Tiedje, J.M., 1988, Oxygen control prevents denitrifiers and barley plant roots from directly competing for nitrate. FEMS Microhiol. Ecol. 53, 217–221.Google Scholar
  8. Christensen, S., Simkins, S., and Tiedje, J.M., 1990a, Spatial variation in soil denitrification: Occurrence of activity centers (hot spots) as influenced by the soil environment. subm. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.Google Scholar
  9. Christensen, S., Simkins, S., and Tiedje, J.M., 1990b, Activity centers (hot spots) of denitrification in the field. Mechanisms causing their formation. subm. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, F.E., and Paul, E.A., 1989, Soil microbiology and biochemistry. Academic Press, San Diego, USA.Google Scholar
  11. Clarholm, M., 1985, Possible roles of roots, bacteria, protozoa and fungi in supplying nitrogen to plants, in “Ecological interactions in soil,” A.H.Fitter, ed., Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.Google Scholar
  12. Coleman, D.C., Anderson, R.V., Cole, C.V., Elliott, E.T., Woods, L., andGoogle Scholar
  13. Campion, M.K., 1978, Trophic interactions in soils as they affect energy and nutrient dynamics. IV. Flows of metabolic and biomass carbon. Microb. Ecol. 4, 373–380.Google Scholar
  14. Folorunso, O.A., and Rolston, D.E., 1984, Spatial variability of field-measured denitrification gas fluxes. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 48, 1214–1219.Google Scholar
  15. Garcia, J.L., 1975, Effet rhizosphere du riz sur la denitrification. Soil Biol. Biochem. 7, 139–141.Google Scholar
  16. Haider, K., Mosier, A., and Heinemeyer, 0., 1985, Phytotron experiments to evaluate the effect of growing plants on denitrification. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 49, 636–641.Google Scholar
  17. Haider,K., Mosier, A., and Heinemeyer, 0., 1987, The effect of growing plants on denitrification at high soil nitrate concentrations. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 51, 97–102.Google Scholar
  18. Helal, H.M., and Sauerbeck, D., 1986, Effect of plant roots on carbon metabolism of soil microbial biomass. Zeitsschr. Pflanzenernahr. Bodenk. 149, 181–188.Google Scholar
  19. Helal, H.M., and Sauerbeck, D., 1987, Direct and indirect influences of plant roots on organic matter and phosphorus turnover in soil. Intecol Bull. 15, 49–58.Google Scholar
  20. Jenkinson, D.S., and Ladd, J.N., 1981, Microbial biomass in soil: Measurement and turnover, in “Soil Biochemistry vol. 5,” E.A.Paul and J.N.Ladd, eds., Marcel Dekker Inc., New York and Basel.Google Scholar
  21. Johnen, B.G., and Sauerbeck, D.R., 1977, A tracer technique for measuring growth, mass and microbial breakdown of plant roots during vegetation, in “Soil organisms as Components of Ecosystems,” Ecol. Bull. (Stockholm) 25, 366–373.Google Scholar
  22. Klemendtsson, L., Svensson, B.H., and Rosswall, T., 1987, Dinitrogen and nitrous oxide produced by denitrification and nitrification in soil with and without barley plants. Plant Soil 99, 303–319.Google Scholar
  23. Mackown, C.T., Brooks, P.D., and Smith, M.S., 1987, Diffusion of nitrogen-15Google Scholar
  24. Kjeldahl digests for isotope analysis. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 51, 87–90.Google Scholar
  25. Martin, J.K., 1977, Factors influencing the loss of organic carbon from wheatroots. Soil Biol. Biochem. 9, 1–7.Google Scholar
  26. Mercks, R., Hartog, A.D., and vanVeen, J.A., 1985, Turnover of root derived material and related microbial biomass formation in soils of different texture. Soil Biol. Biochem. 17, 565–569.Google Scholar
  27. McGill, W.B., Hunt, H.W., Woodmansee, R.G., and Reuss, J.O., 1981, Phoenix, a model of the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in grassland soils, in, “Terrestrial nitrogen cycles,” F.E.Clark and T.Rosswall, eds., Ecol. Bull. (Stockholm) 33.Google Scholar
  28. Mosier, A.R., Guenzi, W.D., and Schweitzer, E.D., 1986, Soil losses of dinitrogen and nitrous oxide from irrigated crops in northeastern Colorado. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 50, 344–348.Google Scholar
  29. Myrold, D.D., and Tiedje, J.M., 1985, Diffusional constraints on denitrification in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 49, 651–657.Google Scholar
  30. Parkin, T.B., 1987, Soil microsites as a source of denitrification variability. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 51, 1194–1199.Google Scholar
  31. Parkin, T.B., and Robinson, J.A. 1989, Stochastic model of soil denitrification. Appl. Env. Microbiol. 55, 72–77.Google Scholar
  32. Parton, W.J., Schimel,D.S., and Cole,C.V., 1988, Dynamics of C, N, P and S in grassland soils: a model. Biogeochem. 5, 109–131.Google Scholar
  33. Reddy, K.R., and Patrick, W.H., 1986, Fate of fertilizer nitrogen in the rize root zone. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 50, 649–651.Google Scholar
  34. Robinson, D., Griffiths, B.S., Ritz, K., and Wheatley, R.E., 1989, Root driven N mineralization: A theortetical approach. Plant Soil.Google Scholar
  35. Rolston, D.E., Sharpley, A.N., Toy, D.W. and Broadbent, F.E., 1982, Field measurement of denitrification: III. Rates during irrigation cycles. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 46, 289–296.Google Scholar
  36. Rouatt, J.W., Katznelson, H., and Payne, T.M.B., 1960, Statistical evaluation of the rhizosphere effect. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 24, 271–273.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, M.S., and Tiedje, J.M., 1979, The effect of roots on soil denitrification. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 43, 951–955.Google Scholar
  38. Terry, R.L., Jellen, E.N., and Breakwell, D.P., 1986, Effect of irrigation method and acetylene exposure on filed denitrification measurements. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 50, 115–120.Google Scholar
  39. von Rheinhaben, W., and Troldenier, G., 1984, Influence of plant growth on denitrification in relation to soil moisture and potassium nutrition. Zeitsschr. Pflanzenernähr. Bodenk. 147, 730–738.Google Scholar
  40. Woldendorp, J.W., 1963, The influence of living plants on denitrification. Medelingen Landbouwhogeschole Wageningen 63, 1–100.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Søren Christensen
    • 1
  • Peter Groffman
    • 2
  • Arvin Mosier
    • 3
  • Donald R. Zak
    • 4
  1. 1.Dep. Population BiologyCopenhagen Univ.Copenhagen ØDenmark
  2. 2.Coll. Resource Dev.Univ. Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  3. 3.US Department of AgricultureARSFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.School of Natural ResourcesUniv. of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations