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The Impact Of Protozoa On The Availability Of Bacterial Nitrogen To Plants

P. Kuikman, J. A. Veen
Published 2004 · Biology

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SummaryMicrobial N from 15N-labelled bacterial biomass was investigated in a microcosm experiment, in order to determine its availability to wheat plants. Sterilized soil was inoculated with either bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa alone or with a suspension of a natural bacterial population from the soil) or bacteria and protozoa to examine the impact of protozoa. Plant biomass, plant N, soil inorganic N and bacterial and protozoan numbers were determined after 14 and 35 days of incubation. The protozoa reduced bacterial numbers in soil by a factor of 8, and higher contents of soil inorganic N were found in their presence. Plant uptake of N increased by 20010 in the presence of protozoa. Even though the total plant biomass production was not affected, the shoot: root ratios increased in the presence of protozoa, which is considered to indicate an improved plant nutrient supply. The presence of protozoa resulted in a 65010 increase in mineralization and uptake of bacterial 15N by plants. This effect was more pronounced than the protozoan effect on N derived from soil organic matter. It is concluded that grazing by protozoa strongly stimulates the mineralization and turnover of bacterial N. The mineralization of soil organic N was also shown to be promoted by protozoa.
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