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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Alkaline Persulfate Oxidation for Determining Total Nitrogen in Microbial Biomass Extracts


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 57 No. 4, p. 1007-1012
    Received: Aug 6, 1992

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. M. L. Cabrera  and
  2. M. H. Beare
  1. Dep. of Agronomy and Institute of Ecology
    Institute of Ecology, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602



The CHCl3 fumigation-extraction method for determining soil microbial N involves the extraction of CHCl3-fumigated and CHCl3-unfumigated samples with 0.5 M K2SO4, followed by determination of total N in the extracts. Total N is typically determined by Kjeldahl digestion (TKN) with the inclusion of NO2 and NO3 present. The determination of total N by TKN has several procedural constraints such as an initial concentration step, long digestion times, and considerable bumping caused by catalyst salts. In contrast, a persulfate oxidation method (TPN) commonly used for determination of total N in sea- and freshwater samples does not require a concentration step and is much simpler and faster than TKN. The objective of this study was to evaluate and adapt the TPN method to measure total N in 0.5 M K2SO4 extracts for determination of soil microbial biomass N. Studies were conducted to optimize reagent/sample (R/S) ratio and autoclaving time, and to evaluate the effects of C and N concentrations. These studies showed that complete N recovery can be obtained with a R/S ratio of 1 and an autoclaving time of 30 min in extracts containing as much as 250 mg glucose-C L−1 at a C/N ratio of 10:1. A comparison of the optimized TPN method to TKN for extracts of 12 CHCL3-fumigated soils indicated that the methods gave the same N recoveries. The use of the TPN method in 0.5 M K2SO4 extracts should facilitate more rapid and efficient measurements of soil microbial biomass N.

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