Login | Request Account (DAF staff only)

Nitrification in a Vertisol subsoil and its relationship to the accumulation of ammonium-nitrogen at depth

View Altmetrics

Page, K.L., Strong, W.M., Dalal, R.C. and Menzies, N. W. (2002) Nitrification in a Vertisol subsoil and its relationship to the accumulation of ammonium-nitrogen at depth. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 40 (5). pp. 727-735. ISSN 0004-9573


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/SR01087


Unusually high concentrations of ammonium have been observed in a Vertisol below 1 m depth in south-east Queensland. This study investigated the possibility that an absence of nitrification is allowing this ammonium to accumulate and persist over time, and examined the soil environmental characteristics that may be responsible for limiting nitrifying organisms. The possibility that anaerobiosis, soil acidity, soil salinity, low organic carbon concentrations, and/or an absence of active nitrifying microorganisms were responsible for limiting nitrification was examined in laboratory and field studies. The presence/absence of anaerobic conditions was determined qualitatively using a field test to give an indication of electron lability. In addition, an incubation study was conducted and soil environmental conditions were improved for nitrifying organisms by adjusting the pH from 4.4 to 7, adjusting the electrical conductivity from 1.6 to 0.5 dS/m, amending with a soluble carbon substrate at a rate of 500 mg/kg, and using microorganisms from the surface horizon to inoculate to the subsoil. Over a 180-day period no nitrification was detected in the control samples from the incubation study, indicating that an extremely low rate of nitrification is likely to be responsible for allowing ammonium to accumulate in this soil. Analysis of the effect of soil environmental conditions on nitrification revealed that anaerobic conditions did not exist at depth and that pH, EC, organic carbon, and inoculation treatments added in isolation had no effect on nitrification. However, when inoculum was added to the soil in combination with pH, a significant increase in nitrification was observed, and the greatest amount of nitrification was observed when inoculum, pH, and EC treatments were added in combination. It was concluded that the reason for the low rate of nitrification in this soil is primarily the absence of a significant population of active nitrifying microorganisms, which may have been unable to colonise the subsoil environment due to its acidic, and to a lesser extent, its saline environment.

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science > Soil chemistry
Live Archive:15 Jan 2024 01:23
Last Modified:15 Jan 2024 01:23

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics