Particulate Organic Matter Affects Soil Nitrogen Mineralization under Two Crop Rotation Systems

Changes in the quantity and/or quality of soil labile organic matter between and after different types of cultivation system could play a dominant role in soil nitrogen (N) mineralization. The quantity and quality of particulate organic matter (POM) and potentially mineralizable-N (PMN) contents were measured in soils from 16 paired rice-rapeseed (RR)/cotton-rapeseed (CR) rotations sites in Hubei province, central China. Then four paired soils encompassing low (10th percentile), intermediate (25th and 75th percentiles), and high (90th percentile) levels of soil PMN were selected to further study the effects of POM on soil N mineralization by quantifying the net N mineralization in original soils and soils from which POM was removed. Both soil POM carbon (POM-C) and N (POM-N) contents were 45.8% and 55.8% higher under the RR rotation compared to the CR rotation, respectively. The PMN contents were highly correlated with the POM contents. The PMN and microbial biomass N (MBN) contents concurrently and significantly decreased when POM was removed. The reduction rate of PMN was positively correlated with changes in MBN after the removal of POM. The reduction rates of PMN and MBN after POM removal are lower under RR rotations (38.0% and 16.3%, respectively) than CR rotations (45.6% and 19.5%, respectively). Furthermore, infrared spectroscopy indicated that compounds with low-bioavailability accumulated (e.g., aromatic recalcitrant materials) in the soil POM fraction under the RR rotation but not under the CR rotation. The results of the present study demonstrated that POM plays a vital role in soil N mineralization under different rotation systems. The discrepancy between POM content and composition resulting from different crop rotation systems caused differences in N mineralization in soils.