Microbial immobilisation and turnover of 15N labelled substrates in two arable soils under field and laboratory conditions

Louisa Wessels Perelo, Miguel Jimenez, Jean Charles Munch

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28 Scopus citations


Microbial biomass N dynamics were studied under field and laboratory conditions in soils of high yield (HY) and low yield (LY) areas in an agricultural field. The objective of the study was to determine the size and activity of soil microbial biomass in the soils of the different yield areas and to compare these data obtained under field and laboratory conditions. Soils were amended with 15N labelled mustard (Sinapis alba) residues (both experiments) and labelled nitrate (laboratory only) at 30 μg N g-1 dry soil. Soil microbial biomass (SMB) N, mineral N (Nmin) and total N content was monitored both in the field and in the laboratory. N2O efflux was additionally measured in laboratory treatments. Isotope ratios were determined for SMB in both experiments, for all other parameters only in the laboratory treatments. In the laboratory less amounts of added substrate N were immobilised by the SMB in HY soils compared to LY soils, whereas in the field immobilisation of added N by SMB was higher in HY soils initially and slightly lower after 40 days of incubation. Calculated turnover times in the laboratory nitrate, laboratory mustard and field mustard amendments were 0.18, 0.27 and 0.74 years (HY) and 0.22, 0.61 and 1.01 years (LY), respectively. The turnover times of added substrate N always showed the trend to be faster in HY soils compared to LY soils. A faster turnover of nutrients in the HY soils may involve a better nutrient supply of the plants, which coincides with the higher agricultural yield observed in these areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912-922
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Immobilisation
  • Isotope pool dilution
  • Microbial Biomass
  • N
  • Nitrogen turnover


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