2019 journal article

Impacts on soil nitrogen availability of converting managed pine plantation into switchgrass monoculture for bioenergy


By: J. Cacho, M. Youssef, W. Shi, G. Chescheir, R. Skaggs n, S. Tian, Z. Leggett, E. Sucre*, J. Nettles*, C. Arellano

author keywords: Managed forests; Switchgrass; Biomass; Biofuel; Soil N cycling; Soil N dynamics
Source: Web Of Science
Added: March 4, 2019

Biofuels derived from lignocellulosic materials is one of the options in addressing issues on climate change and energy independence. One of the most promising bioenergy crops is switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), particularly in North America. Future advancement in large-scale conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks and relatively more competitive price for biomass and other economic advantages could lead to landowners opting to venture on switchgrass monoculture (SWITCH) in lieu of loblolly pine monoculture (PINE). Therefore, we investigated the conversion of previously managed loblolly pine stand into SWITCH in eastern North Carolina, U.S.A. on soil N availability. Treatments included PINE, SWTICH, and mature loblolly pine stand (REF). Each treatment was replicated three times on 0.8 ha plots drained by open ditches dug 1.0-1.2 m deep and spaced at 100 m. Rates of net N mineralization (Nm) and nitrification (Nn) at the top 20 cm were measured using sequential in-situ techniques in 2011 and 2012 (the 3rd and 4th years of establishment, respectively) along with a one-time laboratory incubation. On average, PINE, SWITCH, and REF can have field net Nm rates up to 0.40, 0.34 and 0.44 mg N·kg soil-1·d-1, respectively, and net Nn rates up to 0.14, 0.08 and 0.10 mg N·kg soil-1·d-1, respectively. Annually, net Nm rates ranged from 136.98 to 167.21, 62.00 to 142.61, and 63.57 to 127.95 kg N·ha-1, and net Nn rates were 56.31-62.98, 16.45-30.45, 31.99-32.94 kg N·ha-1 in PINE, SWITCH, and REF, respectively. Treatment effect was not significant on field Nm rate (p = 0.091). However, SWITCH significantly reduced nitrate-N production (p < 0.01). Overall, results indicated that establishment of SWITCH on poorly drained lands previously under PINE is less likely to significantly impact total soil N availability and potentially has minimum N leaching losses since soil mineral N under this system will be dominated by ammonium-N.