Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 2904–2913 | Cite as

Rapid estimation of microbial biomass in acid red soils with and without substrate incorporation

  • Peng Su
  • Yong Liu
  • Sifan Wang
  • Zhongqi Yan
  • Shan Wang
  • Lian Zhu
  • Jun Lou
  • Fangbai Li
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



A rapid and alternative measurement of microbial biomass in acid red soils with and without substrate incorporation is proposed for soil quality evaluation.

Materials and methods

Soil microbial biomass C (SMBC) and N (SMBN) in 24 typical red soil samples developed from two parent materials (granite and arenaceous shale) were measured using fumigation-extraction followed by dry combustion method in comparison with ultraviolet (UV) spectrophotometry (increase in absorbance at 280 nm, ΔUV280). The reliability of microbial biomass estimation by UV spectrophotometry was verified using six representative red soils amended with biochar (0, 1, 3 and 5%) and glucose (0, 100, 500 and 1000 mg kg−1) separately.

Results and discussion

ΔUV280 was strongly correlated with SMBC and SMBN measured by dry combustion, regardless of biochar/glucose incorporation. Validated conversion equations from unamended soil data were dependent on confounding effects of organic C and particle size and can be described as follows: SMBC = 27.08 × ΔUV280 (R2 = 0.67, n = 24) and SMBN = 3.62 × ΔUV280 (R2 = 0.69, n = 24). Regression models for rapid estimation of microbial biomass in red soils from different parent materials had to be calibrated separately in case of amendments. In most cases, SMBC (R2 of 0.75–0.76 and root mean square error (RMSE) of 22.2–29.3 mg kg−1) and SMBN (R2 of 0.74–0.80 and RMSE of 2.60–14.2 mg kg−1) can be predicted from ΔUV280 in biochar/glucose-amended soils using these equations. The slope of the regression of SMBC against ΔUV280 shifted in biochar-amended granite soils, mainly due to uncoordinated changes of SMBC in response to the difference in parent material-induced nutrient availability, while shifts of SMBC (or SMBN) against ΔUV280 in glucose-amended arenaceous shale soils were attributed to particle size distribution.


Soil microbial biomass (SMBC and SMBN) in red soils can be rapidly predicted by fumigation-extraction with UV spectrophotometry detection and corresponding correction of calibration curves, depending on soil nutrient availability, particle size distribution and organic C levels.


Acid red soils Biochar amendment Microbial biomass estimation Ultraviolet spectrophotometry 


Funding information

This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 41471246; 41561074); the Guangdong Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 2014A030313703; 2014A030313570); the Guangzhou City Science and Technology Plan Project (grant number 201510010187); and the Guangdong Provincial Science and Technology Plan Project (grant numbers 2015A020208009; 2014B020206001).

Supplementary material

11368_2018_1983_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 22 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guangdong Key Laboratory of Integrated Agro-Environmental Pollution Control and ManagementGuangdong Institute of Eco-Environmental Science and TechnologyGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Guangdong General Station of Agricultural Environment Protection and Rural Energy ResourceGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Zhoushan Academy of Agriculture and Forestry SciencesZhoushanChina
  4. 4.Institute of Soil and Water Resources and Environmental Science, College of Environmental and Resource Sciences, Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Agricultural Resources and EnvironmentZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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