Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 303–309 | Cite as

Denitrification and fermentation in plant-residue-amended soil

  • J. W. Paul
  • E. G. Beauchamp


Nitrous oxide production (denitrification) during anaerobic incubation of ground-alfalfa-, red-clover-, wheat-straw-, and cornstover-amended soil was positively related to the initial water-soluble C content of the residue- amended soil. The water-soluble C concentration decreased in all treatments during the first 2 days, then increased in the alfalfa-, red-clover-, and wheat-straw-amended soil until the end of the experiment at 15 days. An accumulation of acetate, propionate, and butyrate was partly responsible for the increased water-soluble C concentration. Denitrification rates were much higher in the alfalfa-and red-clover-amended soil, but NO 3 was not fully recovered as N2O in these treatments. Supported by earlier experiments in our laboratory, we conclude that some of the NO 3 was reduced to NH 4 + through fermentative NO 3 reduction, otherwise known as dissimilatory NO 3 reduction to NH 4 + . Acetate, the primary product of anaerobic fermentation, accumulated in the alfalfa- and red-clover-amended soil in the presence of NO 3 , supporting previous observations that the processes of denitrification and fermentation occur simultaneously in C-amended soil. The partitioning of NO 3 between denitrification and fermentative NO 3 reduction to NH 4 + depends on the activity of the denitrifying and fermentative bacterial populations. NO2 concentration may be a key in the partitioning of NO 3 between these two processes.

Key words

Volatile fatty acids Water-soluble C Nitrate Nitrite Fermentative nitrate reduction 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. W. Paul
    • 1
  • E. G. Beauchamp
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Land Resource ScienceUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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