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Nitrogen fertilization alters the distribution and fates of photosynthesized carbon in rice–soil systems: a 13C-CO2 pulse labeling study



Although nitrogen (N) fertilization is widely used to increase rice yield, its impact on the distribution, transformation, and fates of photosynthetic carbon (C) in rice–soil systems is poorly understood. To address this, we quantified the C flows into various pools in a rice–soil system.


Rice (Oryza sativa L.) was pulse-labeled with 13CO2 at the tillering stage. Samples were collected six times during the 26 days following labeling. We quantified the partitioned photosynthesized C into various pools using stable isotopic techniques and estimated C flows.


Although the net distribution of assimilated C to belowground pools did not change, N fertilization promoted C assimilation in aboveground biomass. C allocation into soil was enhanced by N fertilization during early growth, but decreased during late growth. N fertilization induced higher mass-specific rhizodeposition (per unit root dry weight) and its turnover rate compared with the unfertilized system. However, with higher microbial turnover, the daily C allocation from roots to soil was similar at both fertilization levels.


Although total C input into soil is enhanced by N fertilization, its further fate is N fertilization independent, thus leading to a net accumulation of C input in rice paddy soil similar to that observed unfertilized soil.

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This study was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program (2016YFE0101100) and the Australia-China Joint Research Centre–Healthy Soils for Sustainable Food Production and Environmental Quality (ACSRF48165), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41671292; 41771337), Hunan Province Base for Scientific and Technological Innovation Cooperation (2018WK4012), Open Fund of Key Laboratory of Agro-ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISA2017301), Innovation Groups of Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province (2019JJ10003) and the Youth Innovation Team Project of ISA, CAS (2017QNCXTD_GTD). We also thank the Public Service Technology Center, Institute of Subtropical Agriculture, and Chinese Academy of Sciences for technical support.

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Correspondence to Tida Ge.

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Responsible Editor: Eric Paterson.

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Xiao, M., Zang, H., Liu, S. et al. Nitrogen fertilization alters the distribution and fates of photosynthesized carbon in rice–soil systems: a 13C-CO2 pulse labeling study. Plant Soil 445, 101–112 (2019).

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  • Paddy soil
  • Rhizodeposition
  • C flow
  • 13C-CO2 pulse labeling
  • N fertilization