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Question

How nitrogen is exected in soil?


Solution

Soil nitrogen exists in three general forms: organic nitrogen compounds, ammonium (NH4+) ions and nitrate (NO3-) ions.

At any given time, 95 to 99 percent of the potentially available nitrogen in the soil is in organic forms, either in plant and animal residues, in the relatively stable soil organic matter, or in living soil organisms, mainly microbes such as bacteria. This nitrogen is not directly available to plants, but some can be converted to available forms by microorganisms. A very small amount of organic nitrogen may exist in soluble organic compounds, such as urea, that may be slightly available to plants.

The majority of plant-available nitrogen is in the inorganic forms NH4+ and NO3- (sometimes called mineral nitrogen). Ammonium ions bind to the soil's negatively charged cation exchange complex (CEC) and behave much like other cations in the soil. Nitrate ions do not bind to the soil solids because they carry negative charges, but exist dissolved in the soil water, or precipitated as soluble salts under dry conditions.

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