Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 33–41 | Cite as

Total and light fraction organic C in a thin Black Chernozemic grassland soil as affected by 27 annual applications of six rates of fertilizer N

  • S.S. Malhi
  • J.T. Harapiak
  • M. Nyborg
  • K.S. Gill
  • C.M. Monreal
  • E.G. Gregorich


Maintenance and sequestration of C is important to sustain and improve the quality and productivity of soils. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of 27 annual applications of six N rates (0, 56, 112, 168, 224 and 336 kg N ha−1 yr−1) on total organic C (TOC) and light fraction organic C (LFOC) in a thin Black Chernozemic loam soil. Nitrogen (ammonium nitrate) was surface-applied to bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss) managed as hay near Crossfield, Alberta, Canada. The concentration and mass of TOC and LFOC in the 0–5, 5–10, 10–15 and 15–30 cm soil layers increased with N rate and showed a quadratic response to N rate with significant R2 values, with their maximum values at 336 kg N ha−1 in the 0–5 cm layer and at 224 kg N ha−1 in other layers. But the increase in TOC and LFOC per kg of N addition was maximized at 56 kg N ha−1 and declined with further increase in N rate. These trends indicated that higher N rates would cause a faster build up of soil C, whereas lower N rates would achieve a greater increase in soil C per unit of N addition. Response of C mass to N application was much greater for LFOC (range of 697 to 156% increase) than for TOC (range of 67 to 17% increase). Percentage of LFOC in TOC mass increased with N rate. At the 168 to 336 kg N ha−1 rates, almost all of the increase in TOC in the surface 10 cm soil occurred as LFOC. Thus, LFOC was more responsive to N application and was a good indicator of N effect on soil C. The trend of change in soil TOC and LFOC was similar to hay yield and C removal in hay, which suggests that increasing hay yield with N application concurrently also increases soil organic C. In conclusion, long-term annual applications of N fertilizer to bromegrass resulted in a substantial increase in TOC and LFOC in the soil, thereby indicating that N fertilization can be used to sequester more atmospheric C in prairie grassland soils.

Bromegrass Black Chernozemic soil C sequestration Light fraction organic C N fertilization Total organic C 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Angers D.A., Edwards L.M., Sanderson J.B. and Bissonnette N. 1999. Soil organic matter quality and aggregate stability under eight potato cropping sequences in a fine sandy loam of Prince Edward Island. Can. J. Soil Sci. 79: 411-417.Google Scholar
  2. Ball D.F. 1964. Loss-on-ignition as an estimate of organic matter and organic carbon in non-calcareous soils. Can. J. Soil Sci. 15: 89-92.Google Scholar
  3. Bolinder M.A., Angers D.A., Gregorich E.G. and Carter M.R. 1999. The response of soil quality indicators to conservation management. Can. J. Soil Sci. 79: 37-45.Google Scholar
  4. Bonde T.A., Christensen B.T. and Cerri C.C. 1992. Dynamics of 13 soil organic matter as reflected by natural C abundance in particle size fraction of forest and cultivated oxisols. Soil Biol. Biochem. 24: 275-277.Google Scholar
  5. Bremer E., Janzen H.H. and Johnston A.M. 1994. Sensitivity of total, light fraction and mineralizable organic matter to management practices in a Lethbridge soil. Can. J. Soil Sci. 74: 131–138.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell C.A., Biederbeck V.O., Zentner R.P. and Lafond G.P. 1991a. Effect of crop rotations and cultural practices on soil organic matter, microbial biomass and respiration in a thin Black Chernozem. Can. J. Soil Sci. 71: 363-376.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell C.A., Bowren I.S.E., Schnitzer M., Zentner R.P. and Townley-Smith L. 1991b. Effect of crop rotations and fertilization on soil organic matter and some biological properties of a thick Black Chernozem. Can. J. Soil Sci. 71: 377-387.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell C.A., Zentner R.P., Liang B.C., Roloff G., Gregorich E.C. and Blomet B. 2000. Organic C accumulation in soil over 30 years in semiarid southwestern Saskatchewan - Effect of crop rotations and fertilizers. Can. J. Soil Sci. 80: 179-192.Google Scholar
  9. Carter M.R., Angers D.A. and Gregorich E.G. 1994. Approaches to evaluate organic matter quality in soil management and tillage studies. Proceedings of 13th International Soil Tillage Research Organization (ISTRO) Conference, Aalborg, Denmark, Vol. 1., pp. 111-116.Google Scholar
  10. Dalal R.C. and Mayer R.J. 1986. Long-term trends in fertility of soils under continuous cultivation and cereal cropping in South ern Queensland. IV. Loss of organic carbon from different density fractions. Austr. J. Soil Res. 25: 83-93.Google Scholar
  11. Ellert B.H. and Bettany J.R. 1995. Calculation of organic matter and nutrients stored in soils under contrasting management regimes. Can. J. Soil Sci. 75: 529-538.Google Scholar
  12. Gregorich E.G., Carter M.R., Angers D.A., Monreal C.M. and Ellert B.H. 1994. Towards a minimum data set to assess soil organic matter quality in agricultural soils. Can. J. Soil Sci. 74: 367-385.Google Scholar
  13. Gregorich E.G., Ellert B.H. and Monreal C.M. 1995. Turnover of soil organic matter and storage of corn residue carbon estimated 13 from natural C abundance. Can. J. Soil Sci. 75: 161-167.Google Scholar
  14. Gregorich E.G. and Janzen H.H. 1995. Storage of carbon in the light fraction and macroorganic matter. In: Carter M.R. and Stewart B.A. (eds), Structure and Organic Matter Storage in Agricultural Soils. Adv. Soil Sci., Lewis Publishers, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 167-190.Google Scholar
  15. Harapiak J.T., Malhi S.S., Nyborg M. and Flore N.A. 1992. Dry matter yield and nitrogen recovery from bromegrass in south central Alberta as affected by rate of long-term nitrogen applications. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 23: 1245-1256.Google Scholar
  16. Izaurralde R.C., Nyborg M., Solberg E.D., Janzen H.H., Arshad M.A., Malhi S.S. et al. 1997. Carbon storage in eroded soils after five years of reclamation techniques. In: Lal R., Kimble J.M., Follett R.F. and Stewart B.A. (eds), Management of Carbon Sequestration in Soil. Adv. Soil Sci., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 369-385.Google Scholar
  17. Janzen H.H. 1987. Effect of fertilizer on soil productivity in long-minerterm spring wheat rotations. Can. J. Soil Sci. 67: 165-174.Google Scholar
  18. Janzen H.H., Campbell C.A., Brandt S.A., Lafond G.P. and Townley-Smith L. 1992. Light-fraction organic matter in soil from long term rotations. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 56: 1799-1806.Google Scholar
  19. Kanazawa S. and Filip Z. 1986. Distribution of micro-organisms, total biomass, and enzyme activities in different particles of Brown soil. Microb. Ecol. 12: 205-215.Google Scholar
  20. Lorenz R.J. 1977. Changes in root weight and distribution in response to fertilization and harvest treatment of mixed prairie. In: Marshall J.K. (ed.), The Belowground Ecosystem. Range Science Department Science Series. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, pp. 63-71.Google Scholar
  21. Malhi S.S., Nyborg M., Harapiak J.T., Heier K. and Flore N.A. 1997. Increasing organic C and N in soil under bromegrass with long-term fertilization. Nutr. Cycling Agroecosyst. 49: 255–260.Google Scholar
  22. McGill W.B., Dormaar J.F. and Reinl-Dwyer E. 1988. New perspectives on soil organic matter quality, quantity, and dynamics on the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Society of Soil Science and Canadian Society of Extension Joint Symposium, Land Degradation: Assessment and Insight into a Western Canadian Problem. August 23, 1988. Agricultural Institute of Canada, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.Google Scholar
  23. McKeague J.A. (ed.) 1978. Manual on Soil Sampling and Methods of Analysis. 2nd edn. Canadian Society of Soil Science, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.Google Scholar
  24. Nyborg M., Malhi S.S., Solberg E.D. and Izaurralde R.C. 1999. Carbon storage and light fraction C in a grassland Dark Chemozem soil as influenced by N and S fertilization. Can. J. Soil Sci. 79: 317-320.Google Scholar
  25. Nyborg M., Molina-Ayala M., Solberg E.D., Izaurralde R.C., Malhi S.S. and Janzen H.H. 1997. Carbon storage in grassland soils as related to N and S fertilizer. In: Lal R., Kimble J.M., Follett R.F. and Stewart B.A. (eds), Management of Carbon Sequestration in Soil. Adv. Soil Sci., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 421-432.Google Scholar
  26. Nyborg M., Solberg E.D., Malhi S.S. and Izaurralde R.C. 1995. Fertilizer N, crop residue, and tillage alter soil C and N in a decade. In: Lal R., Kimble J.M., Levine E. and Stewart B.A. (eds), Soil Management and Greenhouse Effect. Adv. Soil Sci., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 93-100.Google Scholar
  27. Oyedel D.J., Sibbesen E. and Debosz K. 1999. Aggregation and organic matter fraction of three Nigerian soils as affected by soil disturbance and incorporation of plant material. Soil Tillage Res. 50: 105-114.Google Scholar
  28. Paustian K., Robertson G.P. and Elliot E.T. 1995. Management impacts on carbon storage and gas fluxes (CO2, CH4) in mid-latitude cropland. In: Lal R., Kimble J., Levine F. and Stewat B.A. (eds), Soil Management and Greenhouse Effect. Adv. Soil Sci., Lewis Publishers, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 63-83.Google Scholar
  29. SAS Institute Inc. 1989. SAS/STAT User's Guide, revision 6, 4th edn, Vol. 2. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, 846 pp.Google Scholar
  30. Solberg E.D., Nyborg M., Izaurralde R.C., Malhi S.S., Janzen H.H. and Molina-Ayala M. 1997. Carbon storage in soils under continuous cereal grain cropping: N fertilizer and straw. In: Lal R., Kimble J.M., Follett R.F. and Stewart B.A. (eds), Management of Carbon Sequestration in Soil. Adv. Soil Sci., Lewis Publishers, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 235-254.Google Scholar
  31. Sollins P., Spycher G. and Glassman C.A. 1984. Net minerterm alization from light-and heavy-fraction forest soil organic matter. Soil Biol. Biochem. 16: 31-37.Google Scholar
  32. Spycher G., Sollins P. and Rose S. 1983. Carbon and nitrogen in the light fraction of a soil: vertical distribution and seasonal variation. Soil Sci. 135: 79-87.Google Scholar
  33. Tiessen H. and Stewart J.W.B. 1983. Particle-size fractions and their use in studies of soil organic matter. II. Cultivation effects on organic matter composition in size fractions. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 47: 509-514.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • S.S. Malhi
    • 1
  • J.T. Harapiak
    • 2
  • M. Nyborg
    • 3
  • K.S. Gill
    • 1
  • C.M. Monreal
    • 4
  • E.G. Gregorich
    • 4
  1. 1.Canada, Melfort, Canada SOE 1A0
  2. 2.Canada T2P 2N1
  3. 3.Department of Renewable ResourcesUniversity of Alberta, EdmontonCanada T6G 2E3
  4. 4.Canada, Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada K1A OC6

Personalised recommendations