In the land of plenty: Catch crops trigger nitrogen uptake by soil microorganisms

in 't Zandt, D., Fritz, C. & Wichern, F., Feb-2018, In : Plant and Soil. 423, 1-2, p. 549-562 14 p.

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  • In the land of plenty: catch crops trigger nitrogen uptakeby soil microorganisms

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  • Dina in 't Zandt
  • Christian Fritz
  • Florian Wichern

Catch crops (CC) reduce nitrate leaching, and may resolve a major concern in nitrogen (N) intensive agriculture. CC efficiency depends on N uptake ability, which is related to root development, biomass partitioning, and competition with soil microbes. We investigated the effect of N addition on this with three CC species.

Three CC species were grown in pots with three N concentrations. Shoot and root biomass, C:N content, and specific root length were determined, whereas residual N, dissolved organic N (DON) and C, and microbial biomass N and C were measured.

Addition of N did not consistently effect plant biomass nor its partitioning, probably because of overall high N. However, CC did reduce residual N, and so did soil microorganisms, likely facilitated by C-release from roots. Moreover, plant presence reduced DON, likely through uptake by soil microorganisms, partly followed by plant uptake.

CC not only take up residual N themselves, but also trigger considerable N uptake by soil microorganisms that thrive on C-release from roots. This plant-microbe-nitrogen interaction has to be considered when evaluating CC systems. It remains unclear to which extent soil microorganisms immobilise inorganic N and mineralise or take up DON.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-562
Number of pages14
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2018


  • Biomass partitioning, Cover crops, Nitrogen partitioning, Plant-soil feedback, Rhizodeposition, Root traits, MICROBIAL BIOMASS-C, EXTRACTION METHOD, ROOT-SYSTEM, FUMIGATION-EXTRACTION, N AVAILABILITY, SHOOT RATIOS, COVER CROPS, CARBON FLOW, PLANT-ROOT, NITRATE

ID: 77705184