Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 523–531 | Cite as

Distribution and fate of 13C-labeled root and straw residues from ryegrass and crimson clover in soil under western Oregon field conditions

  • Mark A. WilliamsEmail author
  • David D. Myrold
  • Peter J. Bottomley
Original Paper


Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) and crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) were pulse-labeled with 13C-CO2 in the field between the initiation of late winter growth (mid-February) and through flowering and seed formation (late May). Straw was harvested after seed maturation (July), and soil containing 13C-labeled roots and root-derived C was left in the field until September. 13C-enriched and 13C-unenriched straw residues of each species were mixed in factorial combinations with soil containing either 13C-enriched or 13C-unenriched root-derived C and incubated in the field for 10 months. The contributions of C derived from straw, roots, and soil were measured in soil microbial biomass C, respired C, and soil C on five occasions after residue incorporation (September, October, November, April, and June). At straw incorporation (September), 25–30% of soil microbial biomass C was derived from root C in both ryegrass and clover treatments, and this value was sustained in the ryegrass treatment from September to April but declined in the clover treatment. By October, between 20 and 30% of soil microbial biomass C was derived from straw, with the percentage contribution from clover straw generally exceeding that from ryegrass straw throughout the incubation. By June, ryegrass root-derived C contributed 5.5% of the soil C pool, which was significantly greater than the contributions from any of the three other residue types (about 1.5%). This work has provided a framework for more studies of finer scale that should focus on the interactions between residue quality, soil organic matter C, and specific members of the soil microbial community.


13C labeling Annual ryegrass Crimson clover Straw and root C decomposition Soil C 



We appreciated the field and laboratory support provided by Daryl Ehrensing, Rockie Yarwood, Shawna McMahon, Stacie Kageyama, Justin Brant, Matt Pohl, and Stephanie Boyle. Dr. Yarwood was particularly supportive during the isotope analysis stages of the experiment. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. 0075777 and by the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station.


  1. Balesdent J, Balabane M (1996) Major contributions of roots to soil carbon storage inferred from maize cultivated soils. Soil Biol Biochem 28:1261–1263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beare MH, Wilson PE, Fraser PM, Butler CR (2002) Management effects on barley straw decomposition, nitrogen release, and crop production. Soil Sci Soc Am J 66:848–856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bending GD, Turner MK (1999) Interaction of biochemical quality and particle size of crop residues and its effect on the microbial biomass and nitrogen dynamics following incorporation into soil. Biol Fertil Soils 29:319–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berg B, McClaugherty C (2003) Plant litter: decomposition, humus formation, carbon sequestration. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Berg B, Muller M, Wessen B (1987) Decomposition of red clover (Trifolium pretense) roots. Soil Biol Biochem 19:589–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bird JA, Horwath WR, Eagle AJ, Van Kessel C (2001) Immobilization of fertilizer N in rice: effects of straw management practices. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65:1143–1152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bird JA, Van Kessel C, Horwath WR (2002) Nitrogen dynamics in humic fractions under alternative straw management in temperate rice. Soil Sci Soc Am J 66:478–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bolger TP, Angus JF, Peoples MB (2003) Comparison of nitrogen mineralization patterns from root residues of Trifolium subterraneum and Medicago sativa. Biol Fertil Soils 38:296–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bossio DA, Horwath WR, Mutters RG, Van Kessel C (1999) Methane pool and flux dynamics in a rice field following straw incorporation. Soil Biol Biochem 31:1313–1322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bottner P, Austrui F, Cortez J, Billes G, Couteaux MM (1998) Decomposition of 14C and 15N-labelled plant material under controlled conditions in coniferous forest soils from a north–south climatic sequence in western Europe. Soil Biol Biochem 30:597–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bottner P, Pansu M, Salih Z (1999) Modelling the effect of active roots on soil organic matter turnover. Plant Soil 216:15–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruulsema TW, Duxbury JM (1996) Simultaneous measurement of soil microbial nitrogen, carbon, and carbon isotope ratio. Soil Sci Soc Am J 60:1787–1791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Butler JL, Bottomley PJ, Griffith SM, Myrold DD (2004) Distribution and turnover of recently fixed photosynthate in ryegrass rhizospheres. Soil Biol Biochem 36:371–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cadisch G, Giller KE (1997) Driven by nature: plant litter quality and decomposition. CAB International, Wallingford, UK, 409 ppGoogle Scholar
  15. Carreiro MM, Sinsabaugh RL, Repert DA, Parkhurst DF (2000) Microbial enzyme shifts explain litter decay responses to simulated nitrogen deposition. Ecology 81:2359–2365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cheng W, Coleman DC (1990) Effect of living roots on soil organic matter decomposition. Soil Biol Biochem 22:781–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cheshire MV, Bedrock CN, Williams BL, Chapman SJ, Solntseva I, Thomsen I (1999) The immobilization of nitrogen by straw decomposing in soil. Eur J Soil Sci 50:329–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clein JS, Schimel JP (1995) Microbial activity of tundra and taiga soils at sub-zero temperatures. Soil Biol Biochem 27:1231–1234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DeForest JL, Zak DR, Pregitzer KS, Burton AJ (2004) Atmospheric nitrate deposition and the microbial degradation of cellobiose and vanillin in a northern hardwood forest. Soil Biol Biochem 36:965–971CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Neergaard A, Gorissen A (2004) Carbon allocation to roots, rhizodeposits and soil after pulse labeling: a comparison of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Biol Fertil Soils 39:228–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Devevre OC, Horwath WR (2000) Decomposition of rice straw and microbial carbon use efficiency under different soil temperatures and moistures. Soil Biol Biochem 32:1773–1785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dormaar JF (1990) Effect of active roots on the decomposition of soil organic materials. Biol Fertil Soils 10:121–126Google Scholar
  23. Fontaine S, Mariotti A, Abbadie L (2003) The priming effect of organic matter: a question of microbial competition? Soil Biol Biochem 35:837–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gale WJ, Cambardella CA (2000) Carbon dynamics of surface residue- and root-derived organic matter under simulated no-till. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:190–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gale WJ, Cambardella CA, Bailey TB (2000a) Surface residue- and root-derived carbon in stable and unstable aggregates. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:196–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gale WJ, Cambardella CA, Bailey TB (2000b) Root-derived carbon and the formation and stabilization of aggregates. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:201–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Henriksen TM, Breland TA (1999) Nitrogen availability effects on carbon mineralization, fungal and bacterial growth, and enzyme activities during decomposition of wheat straw in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 31:1121–1134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Herman WA, McGill WB, Dormaar JF (1977) Effects of initial chemical composition on decomposition of roots of three grass species. Can J Soil Sci 57:205–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hobbie, SE, Chapin FS (1996) Winter regulation of tundra litter carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Biogeochemistry 35:327–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Horwath WR, Elliot LF (1996) Ryegrass straw component decomposition during mesophilic and thermophilic incubations. Biol Fertil Soils 21:227–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kuzyakov Y, Ehrensberger H, Stahr K (2001) Carbon partitioning and below-ground translocation by Lolium perenne. Soil Biol Biochem 33:61–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li Z, Yagi K (2004) Rice root-derived carbon input and its effect on decomposition of old soil carbon pool under elevated CO2. Soil Biol Biochem 36:1967–1973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liljeroth E, Kuikman P, Van Veen JA (1994) Carbon translocation to the rhizosphere of maize and wheat an influence on the turnover of native soil organic matter at different soil nitrogen levels. Plant Soil 161:233–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lipson DA, Schmidt SK, Monson RK (1999) Links between microbial population dynamics and nitrogen availability in an alpine ecosystem. Ecology 80:1623–1631Google Scholar
  35. Lipson DA, Schadt CW, Schmidt SK (2002) Changes in soil microbial community structure and function in an alpine dry meadow following spring snow melt. Microb Ecol 43:307–314CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Loya WM, Johnson LC, Nadelhoffer KJ (2004) Seasonal dynamics of leaf- and root-derived C in arctic tundra mesocosms. Soil Biol Biochem 36:655–666CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lu Y, Watanabe A, Kimura M (2003) Carbon dynamics of rhizodeposits, root- and shoot-residues in a rice soil. Soil Biol Biochem 35:1223–1230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lucero DW, Grieu P, Guckert A (2002) Water deficit and plant competition effects on 14C assimilate partitioning in the plant–soil system of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and rye-grass (Lolium perenne L.). Soil Biol Biochem 34:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Malosso E, English L, Hopkins DW, O’Donnell AG (2004) Use of 13C-labelled plant materials and ergosterol, PLFA and NLFA analyses to investigate organic matter decomposition in Antarctic soil. Soil Biol Biochem 36:165–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Malpassi RN, Kaspar TC, Parkin TB, Cambardella CA, Nubel NA (2000) Oat and rye root decomposition effects on nitrogen mineralization. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:208–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martin JK (1989) In situ decomposition of root-derived carbon. Soil Biol Biochem 21:973–974CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mayer J, Buegger F, Jensen ES, Scholter M, Heb J (2004) Turnover of grain legume rhizodeposits and effect of rhizodeposition on the turnover of crop residues. Biol Fertil Soils 39:153–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McMahon SK, Williams MA, Bottomley PJ, Myrold DD (2005) Dynamics of microbial communities during decomposition of 13C-labeled ryegrass fractions in soil. Soil Sci Soc Am J 69:1238–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Muller MM, Sundman V, Soininvaara O, Merilainen A (1988) Effect of chemical composition on the release of nitrogen from agricultural plant materials decomposing under field conditions. Biol Fertil Soils 6:78–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ostle N, Ineson P, Benham D, Sleep D (2000) Carbon assimilation and turnover in grassland vegetation using an 13CO2 pulse labeling system. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 14:1345–1350CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Puget P, Drinkwater LE (2001) Short-term dynamics of root- and shoot-derived carbon from a leguminous green manure. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65:771–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Saggar S, Hedley C, Mackay AD (1997) Partitioning and translocation of photosynthetically fixed 14C in grazed hill pastures. Biol Fertil Soils 25:152–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Saiya-Cork KR, Sinsabaugh RL, Zak DR (2002) The effects of long term nitrogen deposition on extracellular enzyme activity in an Acer saccharum forest soil. Soil Biol Biochem 34:1309–1315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. SAS Institute (1996) SAS system for mixed models. SAS Institute, Cary, NCGoogle Scholar
  50. Swift MJ, Heal OW, Anderson JM (1979) Decomposition in terrestrial ecosystems. Blackwell, Oxford, 372 ppGoogle Scholar
  51. Swinnen J, Van Veen JA, Merckx R (1995) Root decay and turnover of rhizodeposits estimated by 14C pulse-labeling in field grown winter wheat and spring barley. Soil Biol Biochem 27:211–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vance ED, Brookes PC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19:703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van der Krift TAJ, Gioacchini P, Kuikman PJ, Berendse F (2001a) Effects of high and low fertility plant species on dead root decomposition and nitrogen mineralization. Soil Biol Biochem 33:2115–2124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van der Krift TAJ, Kuikman PJ, Moller F, Berendse F (2001b) Plant species and nutritional-mediated control over rhizodeposition and root decomposition. Plant Soil 228:191–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Ginkel JH, Gorissen A (1998) In situ decomposition of grass roots as affected by elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. Soil Sci Soc Am J 62:951–958CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Van Scholl L, Van Dam AM, Leffelaar PA (1997) Mineralization of nitrogen from an incorporated catch crop at low temperatures: experiment and simulation. Plant Soil 188:211–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Waldrop MP, Firestone MK (2004) Microbial community utilization of recalcitrant and simple carbon compounds: impact of oak–woodland plant communities. Oecologia 138:275–284CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. White DC, Ringelberg DB (1998) Signature lipid biomarker analysis. In: Burlage RS, Atlas D, Stahl D, Geesey G, Saylor G (eds) Techniques in microbial ecology. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 255–272Google Scholar
  59. Xu JG, Juma NG (1995) Carbon kinetics in a black chernozem with roots in situ. Can J Soil Sci 75:299–305Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark A. Williams
    • 1
    Email author
  • David D. Myrold
    • 2
  • Peter J. Bottomley
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Crop and Soil SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop and Soil ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of MicrobiologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

Personalised recommendations