Changes in the soil C and N contents, C decomposition and N mineralization potentials in a rice paddy after long-term application of inorganic fertilizers and organic matter

A long-term experiment on combined inorganic fertilizers and organic matter in paddy rice (Oryza sativa L.) cultivation began in May 1982 in Yamagata, northeastern Japan. In 2012, after the 31st harvest, soil samples were collected from five fertilizer treatments [(1) PK, (2) NPK, (3) NPK + 6 Mg ha−1 rice straw (RS), (4) NPK + 10 Mg ha−1 rice straw compost (CM1), and (5) NPK + 30 Mg ha−1 rice straw compost (CM3)], at five soil depths (0–5, 5–10, 10–15, 15–20 and 20–25 cm), to assess the changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) content and carbon (C) decomposition potential, total nitrogen (TN) content and nitrogen (N) mineralization potential resulting from long-term organic matter addition. The C decomposition potential was assessed based on the methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) produced, while the N mineralization potential was determined from the potassium chloride (KCl)-extractable ammonium-nitrogen (NH4+-N), after 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of anaerobic incubation at 30°C in the laboratory. Compared to NPK treatment, SOC in the total 0–25 cm layer increased by 67.3, 21.0 and10.8%, and TN increased by 64.2, 19.7 and 10.6%, in CM3, RS and CM1, respectively, and SOC and TN showed a slight reduction in the PK treatment by 5.2 and 5.7%, respectively. Applying rice straw compost (10 Mg ha−1) instead of rice straw (6 Mg ha−1) to rice paddies reduced methane production by about 19% after the soils were measured under 8 weeks of anaerobic incubation at 30°C. Soil carbon decomposition potential (Co) and nitrogen mineralization potential (No) were highly correlated with the SOC and TN contents. The mean ratio of Co/No was 4.49, lower than the mean ratio of SOC/TN (13.49) for all treatments, which indicated that the easily decomposed organic matter was from soil microbial biomass and soil proteins.