Transformations of chemically fixed liquid anhydrous ammonia by soil microorganisms

X. T. He, R. L. Mulvaney, F. J. Stevenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The application of liquid anhydrous NH3 to soil leads to chemical fixation of NH3 by organic matter and of NHinf4sup+by clay minerals. A laboratory study was conducted to ascertain the biological transformations of newly fixed liquid anhydrous 15NH3 in a Drummer silty clay loam by incubation of the 15N-labelled soil with glucose for 0, 7, 30, and 90 days and by sequential extraction of organic-matter-fixed 15NH3 with 0.15 M Na4P2O7, 0.15 M KOH, 0.1 M NaOH, and acidified dimethyl sulfoxide. About 16% of the 15NH3 injected was fixed, of which 52% was accounted for by clay fixation. The various humic fractions (fulvic acid, humic acid, and humin) were obtained, and the distribution patterns of the fixed 15NH3-N in these fractions were compared. The potential availability of the fixed 15NH3-N was also estimated. The percentage of the 15NH3 recovered as organic-matter-fixed 15NH3 decreased as the length of incubation increased (to 28% after 90 days); the decrease was attributed in part to an increase in the amount recovered as clay-fixed NHinf4sup+(from 52 to 64%). Changes in the distribution of the organic-matter-fixed 15NH3-N in the humic fractions included: (1) an increase in the relative amount of the fixed 15NH3 as humic acid in both the Na4P2O7 and KOH extracts, (2) an increase in the percentage of organic-matter-fixed 15NH3-N in the fulvic acid fractions as high-molecular-weight components (determined by dialysis) or as generic fulvic acid (determined by sorption-desorption from XAD-8 resin), and (3) an increase in the percentage of the organic-matter-fixed 15NH3 as humin. The potential availability of the organic-matter-fixed 15NH3-N decreased as the length of the incubation increased, from 22 to 4% over the 90-day incubation period, and was correlated significantly (0.05 level) with Na4P2O7-extractable N. These results suggest that organic-matter-fixed liquid anhydrous NH3 is initially more labile than the native soil N but becomes less labile with time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-150
Number of pages6
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1991


  • Ammonia fixation
  • Clay-fixed NH
  • Nitrogen-15
  • Organic matter-fixed NH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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