Soil pH and long-term fertilization affect gross N transformation and N2O production pathways in Chinese and UK croplands

Chong Zhang, Xiaotang Ju, Jinbo Zhang, RM Rees, Christoph Müller

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    Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions occur as a consequence of the turnover of soil nitrogen (N), but gross N transformations and N2O production are often not studied in combination, so the relationships are poorly understood. Here, we quantified gross N transformations and the N2O production pathway of alkaline fluvo-aquic soils under different fertilization regimes collected from a long-term field experiment in the North China Plain and compared them with six acidic UK soils (one was alkaline for reference) with high soil organic carbon (SOC). We found that nitrification was the dominant N2O production pathway in the alkaline Chinese soil with a contribution of nitrification to N2O emissions (N2Onit) of 81%. By contrast, denitrification was the main N2O production pathway for the acidic UK soils with the contribution of denitrification to N2O emissions (N2Oden) of 66%. Long-term manure applications significantly increased N2Oden, compared to the synthetic N and no N treatments (25% vs. 18%). The N2Onit was positively correlated with gross autotrophic nitrification rates and pH but negatively correlated with gross N mineralization, SOC, soil total N content, and C:N ratios. Our findings highlight the importance of soil pH in controlling the N2O production in cropland soils, and suggest that the increased contribution of denitrification to N2O emissions should be considered, when increasing SOC through long-term manure and straw management for carbon sequestration and soil fertility improvement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)527-539
    Number of pages13
    JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
    Issue number5
    Early online date7 Jan 2023
    Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2023


    • Soil
    • Gross N transformation
    • N2O
    • PH
    • Fertilisation
    • Long-term fertilization
    • Soil pH
    • Agricultural soils
    • N O production pathway


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