Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 175–182 | Cite as

Decomposition of different organic materials in soils

  • H. A. Ajwa
  • M. A. Tabatabai
Original Paper


Laboratory experiments were conducted to evaluate organic C mineralization of various organic materials added to soils. A soil sample was mixed with organic material to approximate a field application of 9 g organic C kg-1 soil (0.9% or 50 Mg ha-1). The organic materials used were four crop residues [corn (Zea mays L.), soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.), sorghum (Sorghum vulgare Pers.), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)], four animal manures [chicken (Gallus domesticus), pig (Sus scrofa), horse (Equus caballus), and cow (Bos taurus)] and four sewage sludges [Correctionville (Imhoff tank), Charles City (holding tank), Davenport (secondary digester), and Keokuk (primary digester)]. The soil-organic material mixture was incubated under aerobic conditions at room temperature (20±2°C) for 30 days. The CO2 evolved was collected in standard KOH solution by continuously passing CO2-free air over the soil. Results showed that, in general, the amounts of CO2-C released mereased rapidly initially, but the pattern differed among the organic materials used. More than 50% of the total CO2 produced in 30 days of incubation was evolved in the first 6 days. Expressed as percentages of organic C added, the amounts of CO2 evolved ranged from 27% with corn to 58% with alfalfa. The corresponding percentages for animal manures ranged from 21 to 62% with horse and pig manures, respectively, and for sewage sludges they ranged from 10 to 39% for Charles City and Keokuk sludges. All CO2 evolution data conformed well to a first-order kinetic model. Potentially, readily mineralizable organic C values and first-order rate constants (k) of the organic matter-treated soils ranged from 1.422 g C kg-1 soil with ak value of 0.0784 day-1 to 6.253 g C kg-1 soil with ak value of 0.0300 day-1. The half-lives of the C remaining in soils ranged from 39 to 54 days for plant materials. The corresponding half-lives for the C remaining from animal manures and sewage sludges ranged from 37 to 169 days and from 39 to 330 days, respectively.

Key words

Crop residues Animal manures Sewage sludges Carbon mineralization Rate constant Global CO2 Sustainable agriculture 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. A. Ajwa
    • 1
  • M. A. Tabatabai
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AgronomyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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