Using synchrotron technology for soil N management
Gillespie explained that fungi is great at breaking down lignin in plants and bacteria can help break down the rest, but adds, "nitrogen shifts the ability of bacteria to compete, so we are hoping to find out more about the role of fungi in the decomposition of organic matter in soil". Manure and pulse crops also add more organic matter to the soil, a benefit not realized using synthetic fertilizers.
The results of the experiment showed that organic matter in soil was heavily influenced by the type of supplemental nitrogen added.
"The overall trend showed that N additions allowed crop residues to decompose more completely. Specifically, we found less plant-type compounds in soils receiving nitrogen. In addition, we found that among the different nitrogen treatments, manure-enriched soil had the highest amounts of compounds related to microbial turnover," said Gillespie. The findings will prove important for farmers and scientists alike as they work to maximize the potential growth of food while maintaining healthy soils.