Soluble organic nitrogen in agricultural soils
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The existence of soluble organic forms of N in rain and drainage waters has been known for many years, but these have not been generally regarded as significant pools of N in agricultural soils. We review the size and function of both soluble organic N extracted from soils (SON) and dissolved organic N present in soil solution and drainage waters (DON) in arable agricultural soils. SON is of the same order of magnitude as mineral N and of equal size in many cases; 20–30 kg SON-N ha–1 is present in a wide range of arable agricultural soils from England. Its dynamics are affected by mineralisation, immobilisation, leaching and plant uptake in the same way as those of mineral N, but its pool size is more constant than that of mineral N. DON can be sampled from soil solution using suction cups and collected in drainage waters. Significant amounts of DON are leached, but this comprises only about one-tenth of the SON extracted from the same soil. Leached DON may take with it nutrients, chelated or complexed metals and pesticides. SON/DON is clearly an important pool in N transformations and plant uptake, but there are still many gaps in our understanding.
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