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Competition for inorganic and organic N by blue oak (Quercus douglasii) seedlings, an annual grass, and soil microorganisms in a pot study



Competition for inorganic and organic N by blue oak (Quercus douglasii) seedlings, an annual grass, and soil microorganisms in a pot study



Soil Biology and Biochemistry 36(1): 135-144



Sources of competition for limited soil resources, such as nitrogen (N), include competitive interactions among different plant species and between plants and soil microorganisms (microbes). To study these competitive interactions, blue oak seedlings (Quercus douglasii) were grown alone or grown together with an annual grass, wild oats (Avena barbata) in pots containing field soil. We injected 15N-labeled ammonium, nitrate or glycine into the soil of each pot and harvested plants 5 days later. Plant shoots and roots, soil microbial N and soil KCl-extractable N were analyzed for 15N content. When oak and grass were grown together, 15N recovery from the inorganic N treatments (NH4+, or NO3-) was 34, 9 and 4% for the grass, microbes and oak seedlings, respectively, and only 1% remained as KCl-extractable N. 15N recovery from the glycine treatment was 18, 22, 5% for the grass, microbes and oak seedlings, respectively, and 4% remained as KCl-extractable N. When oaks were grown alone, 15N recovery by soil microbes was 21, 48 and 40% in the NO3-, NH4+ and glycine treatments, respectively. N forms had no effects on 15N recovery in oak seedlings (7%) and in KCl-extractable N pool (13%). In general, total N recovery by the grass was much greater than by oaks. However, on a fine root surface area or length basis, oaks exhibited higher N uptake than the grass. Our results suggest that the high rooting density and rapid growth rate of the annual grasses such as Avena barbata made them superior competitors for available soil N when compared to blue oak seedlings and to microbes. Soil microbes were better competitors for organic than inorganic N when annual grasses were present, but preferred NH4+ when competing only with oak seedlings.

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Accession: 004084044

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DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2003.08.024


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