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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Decomposition of Carbon-14 Labeled Plant Materials in a Grassland Soil Under Field Conditions1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 39 No. 4, p. 643-648
    Received: Nov 4, 1974
    Accepted: Mar 28, 1975

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  1. J. W. Nyhan2



A study was made of decomposition of plant materials under field conditions using carbon-14 labeled blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [H.B.K.] Lag. x Steud.). A grassland soil was amended with blue grama herbage and roots in February 1971 and sampled at intervals until March 1972. For ground blue-grama herbage buried in the top 2.6 cm of soil at two amendment levels (128 and 1,280 kg/ha) 54–57% of initially added carbon-14 was lost in 412 days. For plant-root material at amendment levels of 384 and 1,920 kg/ha, only 26–37% of the carbon was lost in this time period. Rates of carbon loss were significantly affected by season of burial; plants buried in February and May exhibited losses of 56% in 335 days and 42% in 314 days, respectively. Segments of blue-grama herbage mixed with soil and placed on the soil surface for 412 days showed carbon losses of 39 and 50%, respectively. Additions of fresh, blue-grama herbage to soil containing partially degraded, labeled plant material had no significant effect on radiocarbon loss rates.

The experimental technique used to estimate blue grama carbon losses under field conditions is evaluated and the decomposition results are discussed relative to decay patterns of native blue grama.

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