Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 431–443 | Cite as

The short-term effects of liming on organic carbon mineralisation in two acidic soils as affected by different rates and application depths of lime

  • S. P. Grover
  • C. R. Butterly
  • X. Wang
  • C. Tang
Original Paper


Two acidic soils (initial pH, 4.6) with contrasting soil organic C (SOC) contents (11.5 and 40 g C kg−1) were incubated with 13C-labelled lime (Ca13CO3) at four different rates (nil, target pH 5, 5.8 and 6.5) and three application depths (0–10, 20–30 and 0–30 cm). We hypothesised that liming would stimulate SOC mineralisation by removing pH constraints on soil microbes and that the increase in mineralisation in limed soil would be greatest in the high-C soil and lowest when the lime was applied in the subsoil. While greater SOC mineralisation was observed during the first 3 days, likely due to lime-induced increases in SOC solubility, this effect was transient. In contrast, SOC mineralisation was lower in limed than in non-limed soils over the 87-day study, although only significant in the Tenosol (70 μg C g−1 soil, 9.15%). We propose that the decrease in SOC mineralisation following liming in the low-C soil was due to increased microbial C-use efficiency, as soil microbial communities used less energy maintaining intracellular pH or community composition changed. A greater reduction in SOC mineralisation in the Tenosol for low rates of lime (0.3 and 0.5 g column−1) or when the high lime rate (0.8 g column−1) was mixed through the entire soil column without changes in microbial biomass C (MBC) could indicate a more pronounced stabilising effect of Ca2+ in the Tenosol than the Chromosol with higher clay content and pH buffer capacity. Our study suggests that liming to ameliorate soil acidity constraints on crop productivity may also help to reduce soil C mineralisation in some soils.


Soil pH Soil carbon Carbon decomposition Priming effect Soil organic matter 



This research was supported by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water as part of its Carbon Farming Futures Filling the Research Gap II Program. We are grateful to the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA and Agriculture Victoria, for access to field soils and to Kaien Ra and Leanne Lisle for their assistance in laboratory analyses.


  1. Aciego Pietri JC, Brookes PC (2008) Relationships between soil pH and microbial properties in a UK arable soil. Soil Biol Biochem 40:1856–1861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aciego Pietri JC, Brookes PC (2009) Substrate inputs and pH as factors controlling microbial biomass, activity and community structure in an arable soil. Soil Biol Biochem 41:1396–1405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahmad W, Singh B, Dijkstra FA, Dalal RC, Geelan-Small P (2014) Temperature sensitivity and carbon release in an acidic soil amended with lime and mulch. Geoderma 214-215:168–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson TH, Domsch KH (1993) The metabolic quotient for CO2 (QCO2) as a specific activity parameter to assess the effects of environmental conditions, such as pH, on the microbial biomass of forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 25:393–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andersson S, Nilsson SI (2001) Influence of pH and temperature on microbial activity, substrate availability of soil-solution bacteria and leaching of dissolved organic carbon in a mor humus. Soil Biol Biochem 33:1181–1191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Andersson S, Nilsson SI, Saetre P (2000) Leaching of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in mor humus as affected by temperature and pH. Soil Biol Biochem 32:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baldock JA, Aoyama M, Oades JM, Susanto GCD (1994) Structural amelioration of a South Australian red-brown earth using calcium and organic amendments. Aust J Soil Res 32:571–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bertrand I, Delfosse O, Mary B (2007) Carbon and nitrogen mineralization in acidic, limed and calcerous agricultural soils: apparent and actual effects. Soil Biol Biochem 39:276–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Biasi C, Lind SE, Pekkarinen NM, Huttunen JT, Shurpali NJ, Hyvönen NP, Repo ME, Martikainen PJ (2008) Direct experimental evidence for the contribution of lime to CO2 release from managed peat soil. Soil Biol Biochem 40:2660–2669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bolan NS, Adriano DC, Curtin D (2003) Soil acidification and liming interactions with nutrient and heavy metal transformation and bioavailability. Adv Agron 78:215–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bronick CJ, Lal R (2005) Soil structure and management: a review. Geoderma 124:3–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cabrera ML, Beare MH (1993) Alkaline persulfate oxidation for determining total nitrogen in microbial biomass extracts. Soil Sci Soc Am J 57:1007–1012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dumale WA, Miyazaki T, Hirai K, Nishimura T (2011) SOC turnover and lime-CO2 evolution during liming of an acid Andisol and Ultisol. Open J Soil Sc 1:49–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fornara DA, Steinbeiss S, McNamara NP, Gleixner G, Oakley S, Poulton PR, Macdonald AJ, Bardgett RD (2011) Increases in soil organic carbon sequestration can reduce the global warming potential of long-term liming to permanent grassland. Glob Chang Biol 17:1925–1934CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fuentes JP, Bezdicek DF, Flury M, Albrecht S, Smith JL (2006) Microbial activity affected by lime in a long-term no-till soil. Soil Tillage Res 88:123–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Garbuio FJ, Jones DL, Alleoni LRF, Murphy DV, Caires EF (2011) Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in an oxisol as affected by liming and crop residues under no-till. Soil Sci Soc Am J 75:1723–1730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gazey C, Davies SL, Masters R (2014) Soil acidity: a guide for WA farmers and consultants, Second edn. Department of Agriculture and Food, South Perth, WAGoogle Scholar
  18. Gibbons JM, Williamson JC, Williams AP, Withers PJA, Hockley N, Harris IM, Hughes JW, Taylor RL, Jones DL, Healey JR (2014) Sustainable nutrient management at field, farm and regional level: soil testing, nutrient budgets and the trade-off between lime application and greenhouse gas emissions. Agric Ecosyst Environ 188:48–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hamilton SK, Kurzman AL, Arango C, Jin L, Robertson GP (2007) Evidence for carbon sequestration by agricultural liming. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 21:GB2021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haynes RJ (1999) Size and activity of the soil microbial biomass under grass and arable management. Biol Fertil Soils 30:210–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haynes RJ, Naidu R (1998) Influence of lime, fertilizer and manure applications on soil organic matter content and soil physical conditions: a review. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 51:123–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heanes DL (1984) Determination of total organic-C in soils by an improved chromic acid digestion and spectrophotometric procedure. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 15:1191–1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hoyle FC, D'Antuono M, Overheu T, Murphy DV (2013) Capacity for increasing soil organic carbon stocks in dryland agricultural systems. Soil Res 51:657–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Isbell RF (2002) The Australian soil classification. CSIRO Publishing, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  25. Joergensen RG (1996) The fumigation-extraction method to estimate soil microbial biomass: calibration of the kEC value. Soil Biol Biochem 28:25–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Joergensen RG, Mueller T (1996) The fumigation-extraction method to estimate soil microbial biomass: calibration of the kEN value. Soil Biol Biochem 28:33–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson D, Leake JR, Read DJ (2005) Liming and nitrogen fertilization affects phosphatase activities, microbial biomass and mycorrhizal colonisation in upland grassland. Plant Soil 271:157–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Keller JK, Bridgham SD, Chapin CT, Iversen CM (2005) Limited effects of six years of fertilization on carbon mineralization dynamics in a Minnesota fen. Soil Biol Biochem 37:1197–1204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kostic L, Nikolic N, Samardzic J, Milisavljevic M, Maksimović V, Cakmak D, Manojlovic D, Nikolic M (2015) Liming of anthropogenically acidified soil promotes phosphorus acquisition in the rhizosphere of wheat. Biol Fertil Soils 51:289–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krull ES, Baldock JA, Skjemstad JO (2003) Importance of mechanisms and processes of the stabilisation of soil organic matter for modelling carbon turnover. Funct Plant Biol 30:207–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lavahun MFE, Joergensen RG, Meyer B (1996) Activity and biomass of soil microorganisms at different depths. Biol Fertil Soils 23:38–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Leifeld J, Bassin S, Conen F, Hajdas I, Egli M, Fuhrer J (2013) Control of soil pH on turnover of belowground organic matter in subalpine grassland. Biogeochemistry 112:59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lorenz K, Lal R (2005) The depth distribution of soil organic carbon in relation to land use and management and the potential of carbon sequestration in subsoil horizons. In: Donald LS (ed) Adv Agron. Academic Press, London, pp 35–66Google Scholar
  34. Manzoni S, Taylor P, Richter A, Porporato A, Agren GI (2012) Environmental and stoichiometric controls on microbial carbon-use efficiency in soils. New Phytol 196:79–91CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Page KL, Allen DE, Dalal RC, Slattery W (2009) Processes and magnitude of CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes from liming of Australian acidic soils: a review. Aust J Soil Res 47:747–762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pal R, Bhattacharyya P, Das P, Chakrabarti K, Chakraborty A, Kim K (2007) Relationship between acidity and microbiological properties in some tea soils. Biol Fertil Soils 44:399–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Paradelo R, Virto I, Chenu C (2015) Net effect of liming on soil organic carbon stocks: a review. Agric Ecosyst Environ 202:98–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Robson AD (1989) Soil acidity and plant growth. Academic Press Australia, Marrickville, NSWGoogle Scholar
  39. Rousk J, Brookes PC, Bååth E (2009) Contrasting soil pH effects on fungal and bacterial growth suggest functional redundancy in carbon mineralization. Appl Environ Microbiol 75:1589–1596CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Shah Z, Adams WA, Haven CDV (1990) Composition and activity of the microbial population in an acidic upland soil and the effects of liming. Soil Biol Biochem 22:257–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Six J, Bossuyt H, Degryze S, Denef K (2004) A history of research on the link between (micro)aggregates, soil biota, and soil organic matter dynamics. Soil Tillage Res 79:7–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tang C, Rengel Z, Diatloff E, Gazey C (2003) Responses of wheat and barley to liming on a sandy soil with subsoil acidity. Field Crops Res 80:235–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tang C, Weligama C, Sale P (2013) Subsurface soil acidification in farming systems: its possible causes and management options. In: Xu J, Sparks DL (eds) Molecular Environmental Soil Science. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 389–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Topp GC, Galganov YT, Ball BC, Carter MR (1993) Soil water desorption curves. In: Carter MR (ed) Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Lewis Publishers, USA, pp 569–580Google Scholar
  45. van Groenigen KJ, Forristal D, Jones M, Smyth N, Schwartz E, Hungate B, Dijkstra P (2013) Using metabolic tracer techniques to assess the impact of tillage and straw management on microbial carbon use efficiency in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 66:139–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vance ED, Brookes PC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19:703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Walkley A, Black IA (1934) An examination of the Degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter, and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 37:29–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Walse C, Berg B, Sverdrup H (1998) Review and synthesis of experimental data on organic matter decomposition with respect to the effect of temperature, moisture, and acidity. Environ Rev 6:25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wang X, Tang C, Mahony S, Baldock JA, Butterly CR (2015) Factors affecting the measurement of soil pH buffer capacity: approaches to optimize the methods. Eur J Soil Sci 66:53–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wang X, Tang C, Baldock JA, Butterly CR, Gazey C (2016) Long-term effect of lime application on the chemical composition of soil organic carbon in acid soils varying in texture and liming history. Biol Fertil Soils 52:295–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. West TO, Mc Bride AC (2005) The contribution of agricultural lime to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States: dissolution, transport and net emissions. Agric Ecosyst Environ 108:145–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. WRB IWG (2014) World reference base for soil resources. international soil classification system for naming soils and creating legends for soil maps. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  53. You SJ, Yin YJ, Allen HE (1999) Partitioning of organic matter in soils: effects of pH and water/soil ratio. Sci Total Environ 227:155–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. P. Grover
    • 1
  • C. R. Butterly
    • 1
  • X. Wang
    • 1
  • C. Tang
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for AgriBioscience, Department of Animal, Plant and Soil SciencesLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations