Carbon flow into microbial and fungal biomass as a basis for the belowground food web of agroecosystems.
The origin and quantity of plant inputs to soil are primary factors controlling the size and structure of the soil microbial community. The present study aimed to elucidate and quantify the carbon (C) flow from both root and shoot litter residues into soil organic, extractable, microbial and fungal C pools. Using the shift in C stable isotope values associated with replacing C3 by C4 plants we followed root- vs. shoot litter-derived C resources into different soil C pools. We established the following treatments: Corn Maize (CM), Fodder Maize (FM), Wheat + maize Litter (WL) and Wheat (W) as reference. The Corn Maize treatment provided root- as well as shoot litter-derived C (without corn cobs) whereas Fodder Maize (FM) provided only root-derived C (aboveground shoot material was removed). Maize shoot litter was applied on the Wheat + maize Litter (WL) plots to trace the incorporation of C4 litter C into soil microorganisms. Soil samples were taken three times per year (summer, autumn, winter) over two growing seasons. Maize-derived C signal was detectable after three to six months in the following pools: soil organic C (Corg), extractable organic C (EOC), microbial biomass (Cmic) and fungal biomass (ergosterol). In spite of the lower amounts of root- than of shoot litter-derived C inputs, similar amounts were incorporated into each of the C pools in the FM and WL treatments, indicating greater importance of the root- than shoot litter-derived resources for the soil microorganisms as a basis for the belowground food web. In the CM plots twice as much maize-derived C was incorporated into the pools. After two years, maize-derived C in the CM treatment contributed 14.1, 24.7, 46.6 and 76.2% to Corg, EOC, Cmic and ergosterol pools, respectively. Fungi incorporated maize-derived C to a greater extent than did total soil microbial biomass.
Kramer, S.; Marhan, S.; Ruess, L.; Armbruster, W.; Butenschoen, O.; Haslwimmer, H.; Kuzyakov, Y.; Pausch, J.; Scheunemann, N.; Schoene, J.; Schmalwasser, A.; Totsche, K.U.; Walker, F.; Scheu, S.; Kandeler, E. 2012. Carbon flow into microbial and fungal biomass as a basis for the belowground food web of agroecosystems. Pedobiologia 55, 111 – 119.