Priming of soil organic carbon decomposition induced by corn compared to soybean crops

Sebastián R. Mazzilli, Armen R. Kemanian, Oswaldo R. Ernst, Robert B. Jackson, Gervasio Piñeiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


The rate of soil organic carbon (CS) loss via microbial respiration (decomposition rate k, y-1), and the rate of stabilization of vegetation inputs (CV) into CS (humification rate h, y-1) are usually considered independent of CV. However, short-term laboratory studies suggest that the quality and quantity of CV controls k, which is often referred to as a priming effect. We investigated how the chemical composition of different residues, (corn and soybean) controls k and h under field conditions in a no-till ecosystem. Using CV-driven shifts in δ13C, we estimated changes in carbon (C) stocks, k and h of both the labile particulate organic matter fraction (CPOM) and the stabilized mineral associated organic matter fraction (CMAOM). After two years of high C inputs (corn: 4.4Mgha-1y-1 aboveground and C:N=78; soybean: 3.5Mgha-1y-1, C:N=17), we found no changes in CPOM and CMAOM stocks in the top 5-cm of soil or in deeper layers. However, CMAOM in corn had higher k (0.06y-1) and C output fluxes (0.67Mgha-1y-1) than in soybean (0.03y-1 and 0.32Mgha-1y-1), but similar rates and fluxes in CPOM in the top 5-cm of soil. In addition, while C inputs to CPOM were also similar for both crops, C inputs from CV to CMAOM were higher in corn (0.51Mgha-1y-1) than in soybean (0.19Mgha-1y-1). Overall, corn plots had higher k and C inputs into CMAOM and therefore higher C cycling in this fraction. Our data suggests that the type of crop residue strongly influences C cycling in the topsoil of no-till cropping systems by affecting both the stabilization and the decomposition of soil organic matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-281
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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