Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 81–90 | Cite as

Stimulation of heterotrophic nitrification and N2O production, inhibition of autotrophic nitrification in soil by adding readily degradable carbon

  • Ting LanEmail author
  • Rui Liu
  • Helen Suter
  • Ouping Deng
  • Xuesong Gao
  • Ling Luo
  • Shu Yuan
  • Changquan Wang
  • Deli Chen
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



This study aimed to test the hypothesis that readily degradable Carbon (C) has contrasting effect on soil N autotrophic and heterotrophic nitrification, can stimulate nitrous oxide (N2O) emission. The knowledge can improve our understanding of the effect of readily degradable C on soil N nitrification and the related N2O emission.

Materials and methods

15N tracing technique along with acetylene inhibition was used to determine the effect of different doses of glucose-C addition on the rates of total nitrification (ntot), autotrophic nitrification (na), heterotrophic nitrification (nh), and N2O production in two soils. Soils were collected from Glenormiston (GN) and Terang (TR), Victoria, Australia and incubated at soil moisture content of 60% water-filled pore space (WFPS) and at 25 °C.

Results and discussion

The addition of mixed C and N substrates with wide C/N ratio (> 25) promoted heterotrophic nitrification by 2.84- to 3.33-folds but inhibited autotrophic nitrification by 30.4–54.8%, thereby resulting in high ntot and NO3 accumulation compared with the soil samples under the control treatment. The mechanism of glucose inhibition of na might be caused by increasing the microbial immobilization of NH4+ and not by affecting the gene copy numbers of ammonia-oxidizing archea and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria. The glucose addition stimulated N2O production in soil, which might be caused by promoting heterotrophic nitrification and denitrification.


The stimulating effect of degradable C application on the contribution of heterotrophic nitrification to total nitrification, NO3 accumulation, and N2O production should be considered, especially in soils with low pH and high organic C content.


15N tracing Acetylene Denitrification Glucose Nitrification Nitrous oxide 



The authors are grateful to the internal reviewers and editors for their comments on the draft manuscript.

Funding information

The authors are grateful for the funding provided by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, National Key Research and Development Plan (2017YFD0200100), by the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Key Laboratory Opening Funding (Y20160031), Incitec Pivot Limited, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture through Grains Research (DE150100870), and the Australian Research Council (LP160101134).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ting Lan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rui Liu
    • 2
  • Helen Suter
    • 2
  • Ouping Deng
    • 1
  • Xuesong Gao
    • 1
  • Ling Luo
    • 3
  • Shu Yuan
    • 1
  • Changquan Wang
    • 1
  • Deli Chen
    • 2
  1. 1.College of ResourcesSichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduChina
  2. 2.Faculty of Veterinary and Agriculture ScienceThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.College of Environmental SciencesSichuan Agricultural UniversityChengduChina

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