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Nitrogen fertilization and its legacy have inconsistent and often negative effect on plant growth in undeveloped post mining soils

Sun, Daquan, Müllerová, Věra, Ardestani, Masoud M., Frouz, Jan
Soil & tillage research 2019
Festuca rubra, Lotus corniculatus, age of soil, fertilizer application, grasses, legumes, mining, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, phytomass, plant growth, soil-plant interactions, trees, vegetation
Nitrogen supplement by adding N-fertilizer and/or growing of N-fixing trees are considered as important stimulus for the development of early vegetation. We performed pot experiments to determine the responses of legumes (N-fixing) and grasses (non-N fixing) in respect to their biomass to N fertilization, legacy of N, and combination of these two in various ages of post mining soils. N legacy was achieved either by long-term mineral N fertilization (legacy of inorganic N) (experiment 1) or growing of N2 fixing plant (legacy of N-fixing) (experiment 2). The first pot experiment was conducted to test N fertilization and legacy of inorganic N and these two on growth of Festuca rubra and Lotus corniculatus when grown separately. Following this, plant-soil feedback was defined as positive or negative by comparing the second generation of plant biomass in soils with and without plants in the previous generation. In the second pot experiment, we compared the performance of P. compressa and L. corniculatus in the presence of legacy of N-fixing and N fertiliaztion when grown together, and in the meantime, plant-soil feedback was determined.N fertilization increased the growth of grasses, but only increased biomass of legumes in young soils. N-legacy induced variable plant growth, in particular often decreased the biomass of legumes. Legacy of inorganic N was only beneficial for grasses rather than legumes in medium soils. When growing in the same pot, legacy of N-fixing showed positive effects on grasses, depending on soil age and N fertilization. Repeated growing of plants in the same soil mostly resulted in negative plant-soil feedback. Negative plant-soil feedback was not alleviated by N fertilization and legacy of inorganic N for both grasses and legumes when grown separately. However, growing grasses and legumes together can induce positive plant-soil feedback with no legacy of N-fixing.In conclusion, N addition often stimulates plant growth more than long-term N effect. Legacy of N tends to be only beneficial for non-N fixing plants in medium aged soils. While negative plant-soil feedback occurs for grasses and legumes both grown separately or together, legumes can induce positive plant-soil feedback when grown with grasses in no legacy of N-fixing soils.