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Indications for passive rather than active release of natural nitrification inhibitors in Brachiaria humidicola root exudates

Souri, Mohammad Kazem, Neumann, Gunter
Journal of plant nutrition 2018 v.41 no.4 pp. 477-486
Urochloa humidicola, ammonium, ammonium chloride, ammonium nitrate, bioassays, electrical conductivity, grasses, nitrification, nitrification inhibitors, nutrient solutions, pH, plant litter, potassium, root exudates, secondary metabolites, soil quality, sulfuric acid
Plants have the ability to suppress microbial nitrification process through secondary metabolites released from their root exudates or/and leaf litter. For decades, grasses were suggested to control nitrification process, and recently, Brachiaria humidicola accession 26159 (BH) as a tropical and subtropical grass has been shown to reduce nitrification rates under laboratory and soil conditions. In this study, experiments were conducted under controlled conditions in nutrient solution culture to investigate whether the reported release of natural nitrification inhibitors from root exudates of BH is an active or passive phenomenon. So different variables such as N-form (nitrate vs. ammonium), collecting medium (distilled water vs. 1 mM NH₄Cl) and collecting period (6 vs. 24 hrs) were included to study the hypothesis. Results showed when root exudates were collected in distilled water there was no nitrification inhibition activity for all ammonium and nitrate grown plants. However, when collection was done in a medium containing 1 mM NH₄Cl, root exudates showed significant nitrification inhibition activity similar to results obtained by Subbarao et al. The observed nitrification inhibition activity had a positive correlation to ammonium treatment particularly in collection medium, probably due to root cells damage induced by low pH and membrane depolarization under ammonium nutrition. This was more supported by application of shoot homogenates of NH₄⁺, NO₃⁻ or NH₄NO₃ grown plants that showed significant nitrification inhibition activity compared to distilled water and DMPP controls in a bioassay test, independent of N-form. Potassium concentrations in root exudates (as a result of potassium leakage) were found to increase in root washings of plants, which were grown with ammonium, particularly when root exudates were collected in 1 mM NH₄Cl solution. In addition, higher electric conductivity of root washings after collection of root exudates in ammonium containing medium (low pH) and also in nitrate containing medium which adjusted to pH 3 by applying H₂SO₄, strongly suggest that release of natural nitrification inhibitors from root exudates of B. humidicola may not be an active process, but instead it is rather a passive phenomenon by ammonium induced root physicochemical damages.