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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Structural disruption of arable soils under laboratory conditions causes minor respiration increases

Kainiemi, Veera; Kirchmann, Holger; Kätterer, Thomas


Previous field studies in N Europe have shown that the impact of soil tillage on soil respiration is mostly indirect, caused by altered distribution of plant residues in soil affecting decomposition of residues. Tillage operations alter soil moisture and temperature conditions in soil, which control decomposition dynamics. Experiments under laboratory conditions allow indirect effects of altered residue decomposition to be distinguished from direct effects of mechanical disruption, i. e., the increased exposure of substrates within aggregates and micropores upon tillage. This study examined the effects of physical disruption of soils with different soil texture, land-use history, and soil organic C content on soil respiration under controlled abiotic conditions. Undisturbed soil samples from 7 sites (arable land and grassland) were incubated at 20 degrees C and three different water potentials (-1, -10, and -30 kPa). Soil respiration was measured before and after physical disruption with laboratory homogenizer, using an automated respiration apparatus. Soil organic C, water content, and bulk density explained 67% of the variation in base respiration. In half of the disrupted samples, bulk density was re-adjusted by re-compaction to conditions prevailing before disruption. Disruption and re-compaction generally resulted in higher respiration flushes than disruption alone. Respiration peaks increased with water content. However, total C losses were small and corresponded to < 0.1 Mg C ha(-1). Overall, physical soil disruption increased decomposition of soil organic matter only marginally and temporarily. It would be difficult to detect an effect of tillage on soil organic matter decomposition under field conditions.


carbon dioxide; soil carbon; arable soils; soil structure

Published in

Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science
2016, Volume: 179, number: 1, pages: 88-93

      SLU Authors

    • Kainiemi, Veera

      • Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • The Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Associated SLU-program

        Future Agriculture (until Jan 2017)

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Soil Science
        Agricultural Science

        Publication Identifiers


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