Labile Carbon from Artificial Roots Alters the Patterns of N2O and N2 Production in Agricultural Soils

Xiaotong Song, JP Parker, SK Jones, Limei Zhang, IJ Bingham, RM Rees*, Xiaotang Ju

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Labile carbon (C) continuously delivered from the rhizosphere profoundly affects terrestrial nitrogen (N) cycling. However, nitrous oxide (N2O) and dinitrogen (N2) production in agricultural soils in the presence of continuous root C exudation with applied N remains poorly understood. We conducted an incubation experiment using artificial roots to continuously deliver small-dose labile C combined with 15N tracers to investigate N2O and N2 emissions in agricultural soils with pH and organic C (SOC) gradients. A significantly negative exponential relationship existed between N2O and N2 emissions under continuous C exudation. Increasing soil pH significantly promoted N2 emissions while reducing N2O emissions. Higher SOC further promoted N2 emissions in alkaline soils. Native soil-N (versus fertilizer-N) was the main source of N2O (average 67%) and N2 (average 80%) emissions across all tested soils. Our study revealed the overlooked high N2 emissions, mainly derived from native soil-N and strengthened by increasing soil pH, under relatively real-world conditions with continuous root C exudation. This highlights the important role of N2O and N2 production from native soil-N in terrestrial N cycling when there is a continuous C supply (e.g., plant-root exudate) and helps mitigate emissions and constrain global budgets of the two concerned nitrogenous gases.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Early online date8 Feb 2024
Publication statusFirst published - 8 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Chemical Society


  • N2O
  • nitrogen
  • labile carbon
  • soil pH
  • soil organic carbon
  • N-labeled urea
  • continuous labile C addition
  • artificial root
  • N O
  • N


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