Plant and Soil

, Volume 200, Issue 2, pp 265–277 | Cite as

Loss of nitrogen in compacted grassland soil by simultaneous nitrification and denitrification

  • M.K. Abbasi
  • W.A. Adams


The soils of mid-Wales in grazed permanent pasture usually exhibit stagnogley features in the top 4–10 cm even though on sloping sites, they are freely drained. Nitrogen is often poorly recovered under these conditions. Our previous studies suggest that continuing loss of available N through concurrent nitrification and denitrification might provide an explanation for poor response to fertilizer N. The work described was designated to further test this proposition. When NH4+–N was applied to the surface of intact cores, equilibrated at −5kPa matric potential, about 70% of NH4+–N initially present was lost within 56 days of incubation. Study of different sections of the cores showed a rise in NO3- level in the surface 0–2.5 cm soil layer but no significant changes below this depth. The imbalance between NO3- accumulation and NH4+ disappearance during the study indicated a simultaneous nitrification and denitrification in the system. Furthermore, the denitrification potential of the soil was 3–4 times greater than nitrification potential so no major build-up of NO3- would be expected when two processes occur simultaneously in micro-scale. When nitrification was inhibited by nitrapyrin, a substantial amount of NH4+–N remained in the soil and persisted till the end of the incubation. The apparent recovery of applied N increased and of the total amount of N applied, 50% more was recovered relative to without nitrapyrin. It appears that addition of nitrapyrin inhibited nitrification, and consequently denitrification, by limiting the supply of NO3- for denitrifying organisms. Emission of N2O from the NH4+ amended soil cores further confirmed that loss of applied N was the result of both nitrification and denitrification, which occurred simultaneously in adjacent sites at shallow depths. This N loss could account for the poor response to fertilizer N often observed in pastoral agriculture in western areas of the UK.

compacted soil denitrification grassland mineralization nitrification nitrous oxide simultaneous 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abbasi M K, Shah Z and Adams W A 1997 Concurrent nitrification and denitrification in compacted grassland soil. In Gaseous Nitrogen Emissions from grasslands. Eds. S C Jarvis and B F Pain. pp 47–54. CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon., UK.Google Scholar
  2. Adams W A and Akhtar N 1994 The possible consequences for herbage growth of waterlogging compacted pasture soils. Plant Soil 162, 1–17.Google Scholar
  3. Bergstrom D W, Tenuta M and Beauchamp E G 1994 Increase in nitrous oxide production in soil induced by ammonium and organic carbon. Biol. Fertil. Soils 18, 1–6.Google Scholar
  4. Bremner J M and Mulvaney C S 1982 Nitrogen — Total. In Methods of Soil Analysis. Chemical and Microbiological Properties, Part 2. Eds. A L Page, R H Miller and D R Keeney. pp 595–624. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  5. Burns L C, Stevens R J and Laughlin R J 1996 Production of nitrite in soil by simultaneous nitrification and denitrification. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28, 609–616.Google Scholar
  6. Chen D L, Freney J R, Mosier A R and Chalk P M 1994 Reducing denitrification loss with nitrification inhibitors following presowing applications of urea to a cotton field. Aust. J. Exp. Agric. 34, 75–83.Google Scholar
  7. Christensen S, Simkins S and Tiedje J M 1990 Spatial variability in soil denitrification: Occurrence of activity centres (hot spots) as influenced by the soil environment. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 54, 1608–1613.Google Scholar
  8. Davies A, Adams W A and Wilman D 1989 Soil compaction in permanent pasture and amelioration by slitting. J. Agric. Sci. Cambridge 113, 189–197.Google Scholar
  9. De Klein C A M, Van Logtestijn R S P, De Van Meer H G and Geurink J H 1996 Nitrogen loss due to denitrification from cattle slurry injected into grassland soil with and without a nitrification inhibitor. Plant Soil 183, 161–170.Google Scholar
  10. Firestone M K and Davidson E A 1989 Microbiological basis of NO and N2O production and consumption. In Exchange of Trace Gases between Terrestrial Ecosystems and the Atmosphere. Eds. M O Andrea and D S Schimel. pp 249–261. Dahlem Workshop Reports, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, NY.Google Scholar
  11. Freney J R, Chen D L, Mosier A R, Rochester I J, Constable G A and Chalk P M 1993 Use of nitrification inhibitors to increase fertilizer nitrogen recovery and lint yield in irrigated cotton. Fert. Res. 34, 37–44.Google Scholar
  12. Hatch D J, Jarvis S C and Philipps L 1990 Field measurement of nitrogen mineralization using soil core incubation and acetylene inhibition of nitrification. Plant Soil 124, 97–107.Google Scholar
  13. Hatch D J, Jarvis S C and Reynolds S E 1991 An assessment of the contribution of net mineralization to N cycling in grass swards using field incubation method. Plant Soil 138, 23–32.Google Scholar
  14. Keeney D R 1983 Factors affecting the persistance and bioactivity of nitrification inhibitors. In Nitrification Inhibitors-Potentials and Limitations. Eds. J J Meisinger, G W Randall and M L Vitosh. pp 33–46. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  15. Keeney D R and Nelson D W 1982 Nitrogen-inorganic forms. In Methods of Soil Analysis. Chemical and Microbiological Properties, Part 2. Eds. A L Page, R H Miller and D R Keeney. pp 643–693. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  16. Knowles R 1978 Common intermediates of nitrification and denitrification, and the metabolism of nitrous oxide. In Microbiology. Ed. D Schlessinger. pp 367–371. American Society of Microbiology, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  17. Kuenen J G and Robertson L A 1994 Combined nitrification-denitrification processes. FEMS Microbiol. Rev. 15, 109–117.Google Scholar
  18. Lindau C W, Delaune R D, William M L and Patrick W H Jr 1988 Application of N-15 dilution for simultaneous estimation of nitrification and nitrate reduction in soil-water columns. Plant Soil 111, 151–154.Google Scholar
  19. Macduff J H and White R F 1985 Net mineralization and nitrification rates in a clay soil measured and predicted in permanent grassland from soil temperature and moisture content. Plant Soil 86, 151–172.Google Scholar
  20. Martikainen P J 1985 Nitrous oxide emission associated with autotrophic ammonium oxidation in acid coniferous forest soils. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 50, 1519–1525.Google Scholar
  21. Moraghan J T and Buresh R 1977 Correction for dissolved nitrous oxide in nitrogen studies. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 41, 1201–1202.Google Scholar
  22. Morrison J, Jackson M V and Sparrow P E 1980 The response of perennial ryegrass to fertilizer nitrogen in relation to climate and soil. Report of the joint ADAS/GRI Grassland Manuring Trial-GM20. The Grassland Research Institute. Technical report 27.Google Scholar
  23. Nielsen T H, Nielsen L P and Revsbech N P 1996 Nitrification and coupled nitrification-denitrification associated with a soil-manure interface. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 160, 1829–1840.Google Scholar
  24. Parkin T B 1987 Soil microsites as a source of denitrification variability. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 51, 1194–1199.Google Scholar
  25. Patra D D, Anwar M, Chand S and Sing D V 1992 Fate of fertilizer 15N applied as urea and ammonium sulphate in opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) grown under green house conditions. Fert. Res. 32, 327–332.Google Scholar
  26. Paul J W, Beauchamp E and Zhang X 1994 Nitrous and nitric oxide emissions during nitrification and denitrification from manure-amended soil in the laboratory. Can. J. Soil Sci. 73, 539–553.Google Scholar
  27. Petersen S O, Henriksen K and Blackburn T H 1991 Coupled nitrification-denitrification associated with liquid manure in a gel stabilized model system. Biol. Fertil. Soils 12, 19–27.Google Scholar
  28. Remde A and Conrad R 1991 Role of nitrification and denitrification for NO metabolism in soil. Biogeochemistry 12, 189–205.Google Scholar
  29. Robertson G P 1989 Nitrification and denitrification in humid tropical ecosystems: Potential controls on nitrogen retention. In Mineral Nutrients in Tropical Forest and Savanna Ecosystems. Ed. J Proctor. pp 55–70. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  30. Rochester I, Constable G and Saffigna P 1996 Effective nitrification inhibitors may improve fertilizer recovery in irrigated cotton. Biol. Fertil. Soil 23, 1–6.Google Scholar
  31. Ronaghi A, Sottanpour P N and Mosier A R 1993 Nitrapyrin effect on corn N-15 uptake efficiency, denitrification and nitrate leaching. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 24, 2629–2639.Google Scholar
  32. Rudeforth C C, Hartnup R, Lea J W, Thomson T R E and Wright P S 1984 Soils and Their Use in Wales. Soil Survey of England and Wales, Bulletin No. 11. Harpenden.Google Scholar
  33. Ryden J C and Lund L J 1980 Nature and extent of directly measured denitrification losses from some vegetable crop production units. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 44, 505–511.Google Scholar
  34. Smith K A 1977 Soil aeration. Soil Sci. 123, 284–291.Google Scholar
  35. Stevens R J, Laughlin R J, Burns L C, Arah J R M and Hood R C 1997 Measuring the contributions of nitrification and denitrification to the flux of nitrous oxide from soil. Soil Biol. Biochem. 29, 139–151.Google Scholar
  36. Thomson C J, Marschner H and Romheld V 1993 Effect of nitrogen fertilizer on pH of the bulk soil and rhizosphere, and on the growth, phosphorus and micronutrients uptake of bean. J. Plant Nutr. 16, 493–506.Google Scholar
  37. Tiedje J, Sextone A J, Parkin T B and Revsbech N P 1984 Anaerobic processes in soil. Plant Soil 76, 197–212.Google Scholar
  38. Yulun Z 1987 Some aspect of nitrogen transformation in soils. MSc Thesis, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK.Google Scholar
  39. Zanner C W and Bloom P R 1995. Mineralization, nitrification, and denitrification in Histosols of Northern Minnesota. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 59, 1505–1511.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • M.K. Abbasi
    • 1
  • W.A. Adams
    • 1
  1. 1.Soil Science Unit, Institute of Biological SciencesUniversity of Wales AberystwythDyfedUK

Personalised recommendations