Variations in concentrations of N and P forms in leachates from dried soils rewetted at different rates
The rate at which dried soils are rewetted can affect the quantities and forms of nutrients in leachates. Both dried and moist replicated (n = 3) samples of two contrasting grassland soil types (clayey vs brown earth) were irrigated during laboratory experiments with identical total amounts of water, but at different rates, ranging from 0 h, increasing by 30-min increments up to 4 h, and additionally a 24-h rewetting rate. Total P concentrations in leachates from dried samples of both soils generally decreased as rewetting rate increased, ranging from 2,923 ± 589 μg P L−1 (0.5 h rewetting rate) to 731 ± 46.0 μg P L−1 (24 h, clayey soil) and 1,588 ± 45.1 μg P L−1 (0.5 h) to 439 ± 25.5 μg P L−1 (24 h brown earth). Similar patterns in concentrations occurred for molybdate reactive P (MRP), although concentrations were generally an order of magnitude lower, indicating that the majority of the leached P was probably organic. The moist brown earth leached relatively high concentrations of MRP (maximum 232 ± 10.6 μg P L−1, 0.5 h), unlike the moist clayey soil (maximum 20.4 ± 10.0 μg P L−1, 0 h). The total oxidised N concentrations in leachates were less affected by rewetting rate, although longer rewetting rates resulted in decreased concentrations in leachates from the dried samples of both soils. The difference in responses to rewetting rates of the two soils is probably due to differences in the fate of the microbial biomass and adsorption properties in the soils. Results show that soil moisture could be an important factor in regulating nutrient losses and availability, especially under changing patterns of rainfall predicted by future climate change scenarios.
KeywordsPhosphorus Nitrogen Leaching Drying–rewetting Soil microbial biomass
This work was supported by the Stapledon Memorial Trust Student Vacation Bursary and by funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Thanks go to Dr Phil Murray for comments on the manuscript and to Mr Andrew Bristow, Mrs Patricia Butler and Ms. Denise Headon for help with the analyses.
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