U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Date of this Version



J. Environ. Qual. 41:262–272 (2012); doi:10.2134/jeq2011.0202


Soil biotic and abiotic factors strongly influence nitrogen (N) availability and increases in nitrification rates associated with the application of manure. In this study, we examine the effects of edaphic properties and a dairy (Bos taurus) slurry amendment on N availability, nitrification rates and nitrifier communities. Soils of variable texture and clay mineralogy were collected from six USDA–ARS research sites and incubated for 28 d with and without dairy slurry applied at a rate of ~300 kg N ha−1. Periodically, subsamples were removed for analyses of 2 M KCl extractable N and nitrification potential, as well as gene copy numbers of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA). Spearman coefficients for nitrification potentials and AOB copy number were positively correlated with total soil C, total soil N, cation exchange capacity, and clay mineralogy in treatments with and without slurry application. Our data show that the quantity and type of clay minerals present in a soil affect nitrifier populations, nitrification rates, and the release of inorganic N. Nitrogen mineralization, nitrification potentials, and edaphic properties were positively correlated with AOB gene copy numbers. On average, AOA gene copy numbers were an order of magnitude lower than those of AOB across the six soils and did not increase with slurry application. Our research suggests that the two nitrifier communities overlap but have different optimum environmental conditions for growth and activity that are partly determined by the interaction of manure-derived ammonium with soil properties.