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The use of carbon isotope ratios to evaluate legume contribution to soil enhancement in tropical pastures

Plant & Soil 162(2): 177-182
The use of carbon isotope ratios to evaluate legume contribution to soil enhancement in tropical pastures
Soil carbon distribution with depth, stable carbon isotope ratios in soil organic matter and their changes as a consequence of the presence of legume were studied in three 12-year-old tropical pastures (grass alone - Brachiaria decumbens (C-4), legume alone - Pueraria phaseoloides (C-3) and grass + legume) on an Oxisol in Colombia. The objective of this study was to determine the changes that occurred in the 13C isotope composition of soil from a grass + legume pasture that was established by cultivation of a native savanna dominated by C-4 vegetation. The 13C natural abundance technique was used to estimate the amount of soil organic carbon originating from the legume. Up to 29% of the organic carbon in soil of the grass + legume pasture was estimated to be derived from legume residues in the top 0-2-cm soil depth, which decreased to 7% at 8-10 cm depth. Improvements in soil fertility resulting from the soil organic carbon originated from legume residues were measured as increased potential rates of nitrogen mineralization and increased yields of rice in a subsequent crop after the grass + legume pasture compared with the grass-only pasture. We conclude that the 13C natural abundance technique may help to predict the improvements in soil quality in terms of fertility resulting from the presence of a forage legume (C-3) in a predominantly C-4 grass pasture.

Accession: 002530207

DOI: 10.1007/bf01347704

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