The effects of intensive nitrogen (N) fertilizations on spatial distributions of soil microbes in bioenergy croplands remain unknown. To quantify N fertilization effect on spatial heterogeneity of soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and N (MBN), we sampled top mineral horizon soils (0-15 cm) using a spatially explicit design within two 15-m2 plots under three fertilization treatments in two bioenergy croplands in a three-year long fertilization experiment in Middle Tennessee, USA. The three fertilization treatments were no N input (NN), low N input (LN: 84 kg N ha−1 in urea) and high N input (HN: 168 kg N ha−1 in urea). The two crops were switchgrass (SG: Panicum virgatum L.) and gamagrass (GG: Tripsacum dactyloides L.). Results showed that N fertilizations little altered central tendencies of microbial variables but relative to LN, HN significantly increased MBC and MBC:MBN (GG only). HN possessed the greatest within-plot variances except for MBN (GG only). Spatial patterns were generally evident under HN and LN plots and much less so under NN plots. Substantially contrasting spatial variations were also identified between croplands (GG > SG) and among variables (MBN, MBC:MBN > MBC). This study demonstrated that spatial heterogeneity is elevated in microbial biomass of fertilized soils likely by uneven fertilizer application in bioenergy crops.
Li, J., Guo, C., Jian, S. et al. Nitrogen Fertilization Elevated Spatial Heterogeneity of Soil Microbial Biomass Carbon and Nitrogen in Switchgrass and Gamagrass Croplands. Sci Rep 8, 1734 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-18486-5