Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2001

Nitrogen distribution and N-15 natural abundances in particle size fractions of a long-term agricultural field experiment

Gerzabek, Martin; Haberhauer, Georg; Kirchmann, Holger


The present study combined a physical fractionation procedure with the determination of the natural abundance of N-15 to investigate the impact of organic manure and mineral fertilizer application, and fallow on changes of N associated with different soil particle size fractions. The long-term field experiment was conducted since 1956 in Ultuna, Sweden, on an Eutric Cambisol. Nitrogen in bulk soil and in particle size fractions changed significantly since 1956. The N-t concentrations in bulk soil decreased in all treatments not receiving organic materials. Comparing the N contribution of particle-size fractions to the total N amount revealed the following ranking: silt > clay > fine clay > fine sand > coarse sand. The relative contribution of N in silt sized particles significantly increased from low to high bulk soil N contents, whereas N in clay and fine clay fractions decreased. The C : N ratios of particle size fractions differed considerably more between treatments than C : N ratios in bulk soils. Generally, the C : N ratios decreased from coarse to fine fractions emphasizing the tendency of smaller fractions being more significant as N sink than as C-org sink. N-15 abundances varied more between particle size fractions of single treatments than between bulk soil from differently treated plots. Within treatments we observed differences of up to 7.1 parts per thousand. between particle size fractions. In most cases delta N-15 values increased with decreasing particle sizes. This pattern on average was similar to changes in delta C-13. Our results suggest that silt sized particles acted as medium-term sink of introduced N and that N-15 abundances in particle size fractions sensitively reflect changes in N status in response to soil management.


fertilizer; isotopic abundance; long-term experiment; nitrogen; manures

Published in

Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science
2001, volume: 164, number: 5, pages: 475-481

Authors' information

Gerzabek, Martin
Austrian Research Centers (ARC)
Haberhauer, Georg
Austrian Research Centers (ARC)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil Sciences

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science
Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)