Plant and Soil

, Volume 183, Issue 1, pp 61–67 | Cite as

Grass species and soil type effects on microbial biomass and activity

  • Peter M. Groffman
  • Patrick Eagan
  • W. M. Sullivan
  • Jerrell L. Lemunyon


We evaluated plant versus soil type controls on microbial biomass and activity by comparing microbial biomass C, soil respiration, denitrification potential, potential net N mineralization and nitrification in different soils supporting four grass species, and by growing a group of 10 different grass species on the same soil, in two experiments respectively. In the first experiment, none of the microbial variables showed significant variation with grass species while all variables showed significant variation with soil type, likely due to variation in soil texture. In the second experiment, there were few significant differences in microbial biomass C among the 10 grasses but there were significant relationships between variation in microbial biomass C and potential net N mineralization (negative), soil respiration (positive) and denitrification (positive). There was no relationship between microbial biomass C and either plant yield or plant N concentration. The results suggest that 1) soil type is a more important controller of microbial biomass and activity than grass species, 2) that different grass species can create significant, but small and infrequent, differences in microbial biomass and activity in soil, and 3) that plant-induced variation in microbial biomass and activity is caused by variation in labile C input to soil.

Key words

denitrification mineralization nitrification nitrogen respiration 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter M. Groffman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patrick Eagan
    • 2
  • W. M. Sullivan
    • 3
  • Jerrell L. Lemunyon
    • 3
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources ScienceUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant ScienceUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  4. 4.USDA-NRCSFt. WorthUSA

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