Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Decomposition characteristics of organic materials and their effects on labile and recalcitrant organic carbon fractions in a semi-arid soil under plastic mulch and drip irrigation


Labile organic carbon (LC) and recalcitrant organic carbon (RC) are two major fractions of soil organic carbon (SOC) and play a critical role in organic carbon turnover and sequestration. The aims of this study were to evaluate the variations of LC and RC in a semi-arid soil (Inner Mongolia, China) under plastic mulch and drip irrigation after the application of organic materials (OMs), and to explore the effects of OMs from various sources on LC and RC by probing the decomposition characteristics of OMs using in-situ nylon mesh bags burying method. The field experiment included seven treatments, i.e., chicken manure (CM), sheep manure (SM), mushroom residue (MR), maize straw (MS), fodder grass (FG), tree leaves (TL) and no OMs as a control (CK). Soil LC and RC were separated by Huygens D’s method (particle size-density), and the average soil mass recovery rate and carbon recovery rate were above 95%, which indicated this method was suitable for carbon pools size analysis. The LC and RC contents significantly (P<0.01) increased after the application of OMs. Moreover, LC and RC contents were 3.2%–8.6% and 5.0%–9.4% higher in 2016 than in 2015. The applications of CM and SM significantly increased (P<0.01) LC content and LC/SOC ratio, whereas they were the lowest after the application of TL. However, SOC and RC contents were significantly higher (P<0.01) after the applications of TL and MS. The correlation analysis indicated the decomposition rate of OMs was positively related with LC content and LC/SOC ratio. In addition, lignin, polyphenol, WOM (total water-soluble organic matter), WHA (water-soluble humic acid), HSL (humic-like substance) and HAL (humic acid-like) contents in initial OMs played important roles in SOC and RC. In-situ nylon mesh bags burying experiment indicated the decomposition rates of CM, SM and MS were significantly higher than those of MR, FG, and TL. Furthermore, MS could result in more lignin derivatives, WHA, and HAL polymers in shorter time during the decomposition process. In conclusion, the application of MS in the semi-arid soil under a long-term plastic mulch and drip irrigation condition could not only improve soil fertility, but also enhance soil carbon sequestration.


organic materials; labile organic carbon; recalcitrant organic carbon; decomposition characteristics; plastic mulch; drip irrigation; Inner Mongolia

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