Adelaide Research and Scholarship
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|Title: ||Drying/rewetting cycles in southern Australian agricultural soils: effects on turnover of soil phosphorus, carbon and the microbial biomass.|
|Author: ||Butterly, Clayton Robert|
|Issue Date: ||2008|
|School/Discipline: ||School of Earth and Environmental Sciences : Soil and Land Systems|
|Abstract: ||Phosphorus (P) limitations to agricultural productivity commonly occur in Australian soils and have largely been overcome by the use of inorganic fertilisers. However, studies have shown that most of the P taken up by plants is from native P pools. The turnover of P and native soil organic matter may be strongly affected by drying and rewetting (DRW). Rewetting dry soil results in a pulse of respiration activity and available nutrients. In Mediterranean-type climates surface soils naturally undergo recurrent DRW cycles. In southern Australia, soils experience DRW due to erratic rainfall within the growing season, and short, high intensity thunderstorms also during summer periods. The principal objective of this thesis was to determine the significance of dry-rewet events, for altering P availability and cycling in agricultural soils in Australia.
Soils representing a wide range of soil types and climatic zones of southern Australia, showed large flushes in carbon (C) mineralisation after a single DRW event. For some soils these were comparable with reported values, however large variability in flush size between soils was observed. Soils that commonly experience DRW did not appear to be more resilient to DRW than soils from areas with fewer DRW events. Even when soils had relatively small respiration flushes, as a result of low soil organic matter, a high proportion of the soil C was mineralised after rewetting. Soil physiochemical properties (total C, total N, organic C, humus, microbial biomass P, organic P, sand and silt) were correlated to the size of the flush, hence nutrient availability and soil texture appear to primarily determine flush size. Therefore, the influence of climate on DRW may relate to determining the quantity of organic matter and microbial biomass that is available for turnover.
Different size and composition of the microbial biomass within the same soil matrix were achieved by adding three different C substrates (glucose, starch and cellulose at 2.5 g kg-¹) at 5 times over 25 weeks. The treatments showed disparate responses to DRW, due to greater biomass (larger flushes) and effects of community composition, highlighting the central role of the soil microbes in DRW processes. When subjected to multiple DRW events these soils showed smaller rewetting respiration flushes with subsequent rewetting events. In contrast, the amount of P released after rewetting was the same. This study showed that increases in P after rewetting were transient and rapid immobilisation of P by microbes occurred, which may limit the availability to plants. The composition of the microbial community was changed by DRW with a reduction in fungi and gram negative bacteria, showing that certain species are more susceptible to DRW than others.
Closer investigation at 2 hourly intervals after rewetting confirmed the transient nature of P flushes. The response in microbial respiration after rewetting was immediate, with the highest activity occurring within the first 2 h. Phosphorus availability was increased by DRW but remained stable over the following 48 h incubation period. The study highlights the rapid nature of changes in available nutrients after rewetting. Furthermore, while potentially only a small component of the P flush that occurred, the DRW soil had higher levels of P than most incubated soil at 48 h, this would be potentially available for plant uptake or movement with the soil solution.
Long-term water regimes (continuously moist or air-dry, or DRW occurring at different times during incubation) that were imposed on two soils from different climatic regions over a 14 wk period, did not alter available nutrient (P and C) pools or the size of the microbial biomass. However, these long-term water regimes determined the respiration response of the soils to experimental DRW. The largest flushes occurred in the treatment with the longest dry period, and confirm findings of reported studies that the response of a soil at rewetting is determined by the length of the period that it is dried. Microbial biomass was little affected by experimental DRW, but showed large changes in C:P ratio. Thus, changes in physiological state or community composition may be more affected by DRW than the size of the microbial biomass. Microbial communities were altered by DRW irrespective of climatic history (warm wet summer and temperate Mediterranean), however these changes were not related to specific groups of organisms. In addition, the disparate respiration responses and inhibition of phosphatase by DRW, indicate that functional changes may be induced by DRW but can not be sufficiently explained by quantifying available nutrient pools or the microbial biomass. The use of wheat seedlings bio-indicators of P availability after the long-term water regimes, confirmed that plant available P was altered by DRW, indicated by differences in growth, although the large variability in seedling growth made it difficult to quantify these differences. However, the distribution of labile P, available at planting, in soil and plant pools at harvest, showed that long-term water regimes increased P allocation in plant tissue in one soil and decreased it in another. Furthermore, only a small fraction of the labile P present at planting was taken up by plants, which confirms the superior ability of soil microbes to immobilise P that is released by DRW. Nevertheless, since the long-term water regimes increased P availability, this may be transported via surface water or leaching.
DRW is important for C and P turnover in soils of southern Australia. However, P flushes occur rapidly after rewetting and are transient. Therefore, DRW appears to have only minor consequences for P availability to plants.|
|Advisor: ||Marschner, Petra|
McNeill, Ann Marie
Baldock, Jeffrey Alexander
|Dissertation Note: ||Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 2008|
|Subject: ||Soil dynamics.|
Phosphorus in agriculture.
|Keywords: ||drying; rewetting|
|Provenance: ||Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.|
|Call number: ||09PH B9885|
|Description (link): ||http://library.adelaide.edu.au/item/1321018|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Theses|
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