Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 109–118 | Cite as

Microbial responses and nitrous oxide emissions during wetting and drying of organically and conventionally managed soil under tomatoes

  • Martin Burger
  • Louise E. Jackson
  • Erica J. Lundquist
  • Dianne T. Louie
  • Robin L. Miller
  • Dennis E. Rolston
  • Kate M. Scow
Original Paper


The types and amounts of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) inputs, as well as irrigation management are likely to influence gaseous emissions and microbial ecology of agricultural soil. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) efflux, with and without acetylene inhibition, inorganic N, and microbial biomass C were measured after irrigation or simulated rainfall in two agricultural fields under tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum). The two fields, located in the California Central Valley, had either a history of high organic matter (OM) inputs (“organic” management) or one of low OM and inorganic fertilizer inputs (“conventional” management). In microcosms, where short-term microbial responses to wetting and drying were studied, the highest CO2 efflux took place at about 60% water-filled pore space (WFPS). At this moisture level, phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) indicative of microbial nutrient availability were elevated and a PLFA stress indicator was depressed, suggesting peak microbial activity. The highest N2O efflux in the organically managed soil (0.94 mg N2O-N m−2 h−1) occurred after manure and legume cover crop incorporation, and in the conventionally managed soil (2.12 mg N2O-N m−2 h−1) after inorganic N fertilizer inputs. Elevated N2O emissions occurred at a WFPS >60% and lasted <2 days after wetting, probably because the top layer (0–150 mm) of this silt loam soil dried quickly. Therefore, in these cropping systems, irrigation management might control the duration of elevated N2O efflux, even when C and inorganic N availability are high, whereas inorganic N concentrations should be kept low during times when soil moisture cannot be controlled.


Microbial respiration Carbon dioxide efflux Denitrification Acetylene block Phospholipid fatty acids 



We thank James H. Richards and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Funding for this work was from the USDA-NRICGP Soils and Soil Biology Program 2001-35107-09940, and Agricultural Systems Program 95-37108-2411, as well as a LTRAS Seed Grant from the Agronomy Department, UCD.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Burger
    • 1
  • Louise E. Jackson
    • 2
  • Erica J. Lundquist
    • 3
  • Dianne T. Louie
    • 2
  • Robin L. Miller
    • 4
  • Dennis E. Rolston
    • 2
  • Kate M. Scow
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  3. 3.Lake County Winegrape CommissionLakeportUSA
  4. 4.US Geological SurveySacramentoUSA

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