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Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Volume 158, 2021, 108265

Priming mechanisms providing plants and microbes access to mineral-associated organic matter

Andrea Jillingd, Marco Keiluweita, Jessica L.M. Gutknechtb, A. Stuart Grandyc

School of Earth & Sustainability and Stockbridge School of Agriculture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA.


Mineral-associated organic matter (MAOM) is considered a stable reservoir for soil nutrients that influences long-term soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics. However, recent experimental and theoretical evidence shows that root exudates may mobilize MAOM, thereby providing plants and microbes access to a large and N-rich pool. Given the mechanisms underlying MAOM C and N mobilization remain largely untested, we examined direct and indirect pathways by which root exudates destabilize this nutrient pool in laboratory mesocosms. We simulated root exudation with 13C-labeled oxalic acid to test whether root exudates are directly capable of mobilizing MAOM from mineral surfaces; and with 13C-labeled glucose to test whether indirect stimulation of microbial and extracellular enzyme activity leads to MAOM decomposition. We also tested the potential for oxalic acid and glucose to mobilize MAOM in an additional subset of sterilized soils to clarify the potential for non-microbial pathways of MAOM destabilization.

Keywords: Soil organic matter, Priming, Mineral-associated organic matter.

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