Effect of switchgrass plantation on soil moisture and nitrogen availability and microbial biomass carbon in a semi-arid ecosystem

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Research Paper 01/08/2015
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Effect of switchgrass plantation on soil moisture and nitrogen availability and microbial biomass carbon in a semi-arid ecosystem

R.L. Molatudi, Y. Steinberger, F.Y. Meng, G.H. Xie
Int. J. Agron. Agri. Res.7( 2), 130-141, August 2015.
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The crop canopy was reported to have a strong influence on soil moisture and nutrient availability. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) plantations on soil moisture and the levels of mineral nitrogen and microbial biomass carbon. Soil samples were collected from six soil layers to a depth of 90 cm under switchgrass stands established in 2006 (SG2006), 2008 (SG2008), and 2009 (SG2009), and under native grasses as a control, during 2012 and 2013. Soil moisture was significantly higher (P < 0.05) under native grasses than under all switchgrass stands. Soil ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N) levels were significantly higher under all switchgrass stands than under native grasses. The nitrate nitrogen (NO3 -N) concentration was significantly lower in soil under native grasses than under all switchgrass stands and averaged 2.74 mg kg-1 for the two seasons. Among all the treatments, the 2009 switchgrass plantation soil had a significantly lower (P < 0.05) microbial biomass carbon (MBC) (160 mg kg-1 and 121 mg kg-1 in 2012 and 2013, respectively) during both growing seasons. Ammonium-nitrogen, NO3 -N and MBC were significantly higher in the upper soil layers than in deeper layers in all treatments studied. Soil moisture was significantly higher in the deeper layers than in the upper layers, regardless of treatment. These findings confirm that switchgrass plantations exhibit beneficial impacts on soil fertility in semi-arid regions, through alleviation of NO3-N leaching and enhancement of soil microbial carbon.


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