Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 618–628 | Cite as

Effects of straw management and nitrogen application rate on soil organic matter fractions and microbial properties in North China Plain

  • Zengqiang Li
  • Dandan Li
  • Lei Ma
  • Yueyue Yu
  • Bingzi ZhaoEmail author
  • Jiabao Zhang
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



A 2-year field experiment was conducted on the North China Plain to assess the effects of two straw management practices and different nitrogen fertilizer addition levels on soil organic matter (SOM) fractions and microbial properties under a winter wheat-summer maize cropping system.

Materials and methods

Eight treatments (two straw management practices and four nitrogen fertilizer input levels) were established using a randomized complete block design. The straw management practices were no straw return and straw return. Each straw management practice received nitrogen fertilizer rates at 0 (N0), 270 (N270), 360 (N360), or 450 (N450) kg N ha−1 year−1. The soil properties measured included SOM fractionation, enzyme activities, community level physiology profile (CLPP), and microbial community abundance and composition, which were represented by phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA).

Results and discussion

Compared to no straw return, the addition of straw significantly increased soil total organic carbon and nitrogen, particulate organic carbon and nitrogen, and occluded particulate organic carbon and hot water extractable organic carbon by 7–29%. Invertase, protease, urease, and dehydrogenase activities increased by 22–40%. The biomasses of Gram-positive bacteria and fungi also increased. The increase in SOM fractions may be attributed to the decomposition of the added straw by more active enzymes, which may result from the shift of microbial community composition. In addition, hot-water extractable organic carbon, NO3-N, urease activity, and fungal biomass in the N270, N360, and N450 treatments significantly increased, independent of the nitrogen application rate, which indicated that N input level had a non-linear effect on soil properties in this area.


Short-term straw return combined with a modest nitrogen fertilizer input (270 kg N ha−1 year−1) can increase SOM contents and microbial activity, which may help improve soil fertility in this region.


Crop straw return N fertilizer rate SOM fractions Enzyme activity CLPP PLFA 


Funding information

This work was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0200107 and 2016YFD0300802), the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (41701331), and the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-03).


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zengqiang Li
    • 1
  • Dandan Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lei Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yueyue Yu
    • 1
  • Bingzi Zhao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jiabao Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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