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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Microbial Biomass Dynamics in Tallgrass Prairie


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 58 No. 3, p. 816-823
    Received: Aug 6, 1992

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. Fernando O. Garcia and
  2. Charles W. Rice 
  1. Departamento Agronomia, E.E.A. INTA, C.C. 276, (7620) Balcarce, Argentina
    Dep. of Agronomy, Kansas State Univ., Throckmorton Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506-5501



The temporal dynamics and effects of burning, mowing, and N fertilization on microbial biomass (MBM) in tallgrass prairie were studied in a field experiment established in 1986. Microbial C (MC) and microbial N (MN), determined by the fumigation-incubation procedure during the growing seasons of 1989 through 1991, averaged 217 mg C kg−1 and 32.6 mg N kg−1, respectively, for the 0- to 30-cm depth. Accumulation of litter and greater production of roots near the surface resulted in stratification of MBM. Seasonally, MBM was higher in early spring, decreased with the initiation of plant growth, and then recovered by late summer or early fall. Decreases of MN between March and July coincided with plant N uptake. The increase of MC and decrease of MN during the 3 yr of the study were related to increased plant production. Burning had a short-term and variable effect on MC. Burning tended to reduce MC during dry years and increase it in normal to wet years. Mowing and raking decreased MC and MN, probably because of reduced root biomass and removal of standing vegetation. Nitrogen addition resulted in higher MN and tended to reduce MC, possibly by modifying the composition of the microbial population. Microbial biomass seems to play a critical role in conserving N in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

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