Pedosphere 29(2): 195--203, 2019
ISSN 1002-0160/CN 32-1315/P
©2019 Soil Science Society of China
Published by Elsevier B.V. and Science Press
Does Particulate Organic Matter Fraction Meet the Criteria for a Model Soil Organic Matter Pool?
Denis CURTIN, Michael H. BEARE, Weiwen QIU, Joanna SHARP
New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, Christchurch 8140 (New Zealand)
Corresponding Author:Denis CURTIN
      There is a well-recognized need for improved fractionation methods to partition soil organic matter into functional pools. Physical separation based on particle size is widely used, yielding particulate organic matter (POM, i.e., free or "uncomplexed" organic matter > 50 μm) as the most labile fraction. To evaluate whether POM meets criteria for an ideal model pool, we examined whether it is:1) unique, i.e., found only in the > 50 μm fraction and 2) homogeneous, rather than a composite of different subfractions. Following ultrasonic dispersion, sand (> 50 μm) along with coarse (20-50 μm) and fine (5-20 μm) silt fractions were isolated from a silt loam soil under long-term pasture at Lincoln, New Zealand. The sand and silt fractions contained 20% and 21% of total soil C, respectively. We adopted a sequential density separation procedure using sodium polytungstate with density increasing step-wise from 1.7 to 2.4 g cm-3 to recover organic matter (light fractions) from the sand and silt fractions. Almost all (ca. 90%) the organic matter in the sand fraction and a large proportion (ca. 60%-70%) in the silt fractions was recovered by sequential density separation. The results suggested that POM is a composite of organo-mineral complexes with varying proportions of organic and mineral materials. Part of the organic matter associated with the silt fractions shared features in common with POM. In a laboratory bio-assay, biodegradability of POM varied depending on land use (pasture > arable cropping). We concluded that POM is neither homogeneous nor unique.
Key Words:  biodegradability,density separation,labile fraction,land use,particle size fractionation,sand,silt,sodium polytungstate
Citation: Curtin D, Beare M H, Qiu W, Sharp J. 2019. Does particulate organic matter fraction meet the criteria for a model soil organic matter pool? Pedosphere. 29(2):195-203.
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