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Appropriate nitrogen supply could improve soil microbial and chemical characteristics with Sophora davidii seedlings cultivated in water stress conditions

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A greenhouse experiment was conducted to investigate the changes of soil microbial activities and chemical properties under different water and nitrogen (N) supply conditions. A completely randomized design was subjected to three water regimes (80%, 40% and 20% water field capacity (FC)) and three N supply regimes (control, N0: 0 mg N kg−1 soil; low N supply, Nl: 92 mg N kg−1 soil; and high N supply, Nh: 184 mg N kg−1 soil) by potting with 2-month-old Sophora davidii seedlings. Water stress decreased the content of soil organic carbon (C), available N and phosphorus (P), the ratio of C/N, the ratio of C/P, as well as activities of soil invertase, urease and alkaline phosphatase, but not reduced microbial biomass C, N and P contents. Soil microbial and chemical characteristics also exhibited strong responses to N supply, and these responses were inconsistent among N supply levels. The contents of soil organic C and available P showed stronger positive responses to Nl than to Nh, while the available N content increased with increasing N supply. Additionally, Nl rather than the other two N treatments led to increased microbial biomass N and invertase activity under 20% FC treatment, even though the invertase activity increased in Nh treatment under 40% FC and 80% FC treatments. Nl treatment also increased the C/P ratio and alkaline phosphatase activity. These results suggest that water and N co-limited nutrient mineralization and microbial activity, and that these characteristics responded positively to Nl. Therefore, appropriate or low N supply is recommended to increase soil quality restrained by water stress, thereby facilitating S. davidii seedling establishment under water deficit conditions.

Keywords: Arid environment; N supply; enzyme activity; microbial biomass; water deficit

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Chengdu Institute of Biology,ECORES Laboratory, The Chinese Academy Sciences, ChengduP.O. Box 416610041, P. R. China

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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