Evaluation of several indices of potentially mineralizable soil nitrogen

Bushong, J.T.; Norman, R.J.; Ross, W.J.; Slaton, N.A.; Wilson, C.E. Jr.;; Gbur, E.E. Jr.;

Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 38(19-20): 2799-2813


ISSN/ISBN: 0010-3624
DOI: 10.1080/00103620701663040
Accession: 018497144

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A routine soil test that accurately predicts soil nitrogen (N) mineralization has long eluded researchers. Soil incubations, which are not practical for routine soil testing, are the only methods that have proven successful. Although several quick analytical methods have been proposed, no one method has correlated consistently enough to be implemented into a soil-testing program. The objective of this study was to compare proposed quick analytical procedures with the amount of ammonium (NH4)-N mineralized after a 14-d anaerobic incubation. The analytical methods of interest werei. applying a mild acid oxidation to the soil using acidified permanganate;ii. analyzing a 1 M potassium chloride (KCl) soil extract in the ultraviolet (UV) spectrophotometric range before and after nitrate (NO3) removal with Devarda's alloy; andiii. quantifying soil amino sugar-N content using the Illinois soil N test (ISNT) diffusion method.Fifty agricultural soils with different physical and chemical properties were utilized in this study. All methods displayed significant relationships with the anaerobic incubation procedure; however, some methods displayed higher, more acceptable, coefficients of determination. The ISNT and UV spectrophotometry measurement at 210 nm after NO3 removal failed to accurately estimate N mineralization (R-2 = 0.45 and 0.31, respectively). The acid oxidation procedure and UV measurement at 260 nm of soil extracts before NO3 removal produced better results with coefficients of determination of 0.58 and 0.56, respectively. We suspect the ability of some methods to predict N mineralization was hindered because of the wide variety of geographic locations from which the soils were collected. Additional analyses were conducted on a subset of 16 silt-loam soils from Arkansas. The coefficient of determinations increased for each method: acid oxidation procedure increased to 0.83, the ISNT increased to 0.71, and the UV method (at 260 nm before NO3 removal) increased to 0.63. If anaerobic incubation is a true indication of N mineralization in the field, the aforementioned methods display promise to correlate with N uptake by field-grown plant studies when adapted to a specific geographic location and/or soil series.