Nitrogen (N) fertilization affects bioenergy crop growth and productivity and consequently carbon (C) and N contents in soil, it however remains unclear whether N fertilization and crop type individually or interactively influence soil organic carbon (SOC) and total N (TN). In a three-year long fertilization experiment in switchgrass (SG: Panicum virgatum L.) and gamagrass (GG: Tripsacum dactyloides L.) croplands in Middle Tennessee USA, soil samples (0–15cm) were collected in plots with no N input (NN), low N input (LN: 84 kg N ha-1 yr-1 in urea) and high N input (HN: 168 kg N ha-1 yr-1 in urea). Besides SOC and TN, the aboveground plant biomass was also quantified. In addition to a summary of published root morphology data based on a separated mesocosm experiment, the root leachable dissolved organic matter (DOM) of both crops was also measured using archived samples. Results showed no significant interaction of N fertilization and crop type on SOC, TN or plant aboveground biomass (ABG). Relative to NN, HN (not LN) significantly increased SOC and TN in both crops. Though SG showed a 15–68% significantly higher ABG than GG, GG showed a 9.3–12% significantly higher SOC and TN than SG. The positive linear relationships of SOC or TN with ABG were identified for SG. However, GG showed structurally more complex and less readily decomposed root DOM, a larger root volume, total root length and surface area than SG. Collectively, these suggested that intensive N fertilization could increase C and N stocks in bioenergy cropland soils but these effects may be more likely mediated by the aboveground biomass in SG and root chemistry and morphology in GG. Future studies are expected to examine the root characteristics in different bioenergy croplands under the field fertilization experiment.
Li J, Jian S, Lane CS, Lu Y, He X, Wang G, et al. (2020) Effects of nitrogen fertilization and bioenergy crop type on topsoil organic carbon and total Nitrogen contents in middle Tennessee USA. PLoS ONE 15(3): e0230688. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230688