Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology

02.10.2013
How different fertilizers affect soil organic matter and what that means for crops

As food security becomes an increasingly important global issue, scientists are looking for the best way to maintain the organic matter in soils using different methods of fertilization and crop rotation.

Increasing the organic matter in soils is key to growing crops for numerous reasons, including increased water-holding capacity and improved tilth. Scientists have recently used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) to evaluate the effects of various sources of supplemental nitrogen fertilizer on the chemical composition of soil organic matter. Results of their experiments to study this question were recently published in the journal Biogeochemistry.

"The big question I had when we started this research was how different nitrogen fertilizer supplements affected the overall soil organic matter composition," says Dr. Adam Gillespie, a post-doctoral fellow working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). "We also wanted to look at how we could optimize the use of nitrogen, since nitrogen fertilizers can be a solution, but also a problem."

Gillespie and his colleagues from AAFC, the University of Saskatchewan, St. Francis Xavier University, Lakehead University, and the CLS tested the hypothesis that the chemical composition of SOM would be different if the supplemental nitrogen originated from a synthetic fertilizer product, animal manure or a legume source.

The invention of synthetic fertilizer, where nitrogen is taken from an inert chemical form in the air and turned into ammonia, has had a profound effect on nitrogen cycling. In fact, astonishingly, humans have doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the biosphere.

According to Gillespie, 40 per cent of people alive today derive their nitrogen nutrition from synthetically-fixed fertilizer.

"Indeed, fertilization has had a profound effect on humanity as a whole. The downside of nitrogen fertilization is that run-off of nitrates to the surface waters or leaching of nitrates to groundwater cause problems with water quality and eutrophication in lakes. The recent algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg are a prime example of this nitrogen pollution. Secondly, nitrogen can be converted to nitrous oxide, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Before fertilizers, nitrogen was introduced into the soil through rainfall or native pulse crops, so when fertilizer was developed, it revolutionized farming."

He cites three common ways for producers to introduce nitrogen into soil: synthetic fertilizer; manure or other organic amendments; and through cultivation of nitrogen fixing pulse crops. For all these methods, the nitrogen comes in different forms. Synthetic fertilizer is available as a variety of commercial products, with different nitrogen-release times, whereas manure and pulse crops need to be broken down by microbial decomposition before nitrogen becomes available.

Gillespie explained that fungi is great at breaking down lignin in plants and bacteria can help break down the rest, but adds, "nitrogen shifts the ability of bacteria to compete, so we are hoping to find out more about the role of fungi in the decomposition of organic matter in soil". Manure and pulse crops also add more organic matter to the soil, a benefit not realized using synthetic fertilizers.

The results of the experiment showed that organic matter in soil was heavily influenced by the type of supplemental nitrogen added.

"The overall trend showed that N additions allowed crop residues to decompose more completely. Specifically, we found less plant-type compounds in soils receiving nitrogen. In addition, we found that among the different nitrogen treatments, manure-enriched soil had the highest amounts of compounds related to microbial turnover," said Gillespie. The findings will prove important for farmers and scientists alike as they work to maximize the potential growth of food while maintaining healthy soils.

Mark Ferguson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lightsource.ca

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Platinum nanoparticles for selective treatment of liver cancer cells
15.02.2019 | ETH Zurich

nachricht New molecular blueprint advances our understanding of photosynthesis
15.02.2019 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Regensburg physicists watch electron transfer in a single molecule

For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.

The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...

Im Focus: University of Konstanz gains new insights into the recent development of the human immune system

Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens

Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...

Im Focus: Transformation through Light

Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light

When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...

Im Focus: Famous “sandpile model” shown to move like a traveling sand dune

Researchers at IST Austria find new property of important physical model. Results published in PNAS

The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...

Im Focus: Cryo-force spectroscopy reveals the mechanical properties of DNA components

Physicists from the University of Basel have developed a new method to examine the elasticity and binding properties of DNA molecules on a surface at extremely low temperatures. With a combination of cryo-force spectroscopy and computer simulations, they were able to show that DNA molecules behave like a chain of small coil springs. The researchers reported their findings in Nature Communications.

DNA is not only a popular research topic because it contains the blueprint for life – it can also be used to produce tiny components for technical applications.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Global Legal Hackathon at HAW Hamburg

11.02.2019 | Event News

The world of quantum chemistry meets in Heidelberg

30.01.2019 | Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gravitational waves will settle cosmic conundrum

15.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Spintronics by 'straintronics'

15.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Platinum nanoparticles for selective treatment of liver cancer cells

15.02.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>