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Effects of long-term soil acidification due to nitrogen fertilizer inputs in Wisconsin

Abstract

Agroecosystems are domesticated ecosystems intermediate between natural ecosystems and fabricated ecosystems, and occupy nearly one-third of the land areas of the earth. Chemical perturbations as a result of human activity are particularly likely in agroecosystems because of the intensity of that activity, which include nutrient inputs intended to supplement native nutrient pools and to support greater biomass production and removal. At a long-term fertility trial in South-Central Wisconsin, USA, significant increases in exchangeable acidity were accompanied by decreases in cation exchange capacity (CEC), base saturation, and exchangeable Ca2+ and Mg2+ with application of ammoniacal N fertilizer. Plant analysis shows that a considerable portion of the alkalinity generated by assimilation of N (and to a lesser extent by S) is sequestered in the above-ground plant parts as organic anions and is not returned to the soil if harvested. Elemental analysis of Ca-saturated soil clays indicates an loss of 16% of the CEC of the soil clay and minor increases in Fe and Al. The reversibility of these changes due to prolonged acidification is doubtful if the changes are due to soil weathering.

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Barak, P., Jobe, B.O., Krueger, A.R. et al. Effects of long-term soil acidification due to nitrogen fertilizer inputs in Wisconsin. Plant and Soil 197, 61–69 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1004297607070

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  • acidity
  • cation exchange capacity
  • exchangeable acidity
  • N fertilizers
  • organic anions