Fungal and bacterial growth in soil with plant materials of different C/N ratios


  • Editor: Max Häggblom

Correspondence: Johannes Rousk, Department of Microbial Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden. Tel: +46462223762; e-mail:


Fungal (acetate-in-ergosterol incorporation) and bacterial (leucine/thymidine incorporation) growth resulting from alfalfa (C/N=15) and barley straw (C/N=75) addition was studied in soil microcosms for 64 days. Nitrogen amendments were used to compensate for the C/N difference between the substrates. Fungal growth increased to a maximum after 3–7 days, at five to eight times the controls, following the addition of straw, and three to four times the controls following the addition of alfalfa. After 20–30 days, the fungal growth rate converged with the controls, resulting in a cumulative fungal growth two to three times the controls following straw addition and about 20% higher than the controls following alfalfa addition. The bacterial growth rate reached rates five times the controls following alfalfa addition and twice that of the controls following straw addition after 3–7 days. It remained elevated after 64 days. The cumulative bacterial growth was two and four times the controls following straw and alfalfa addition, respectively. A negative correlation was found between N addition and bacterial growth, while N stimulated fungal growth. Thus, the C/N ratio of the additions (substrate and extra N) could not entirely explain the different results regarding fungal and bacterial growths. Respiration was not always related to the combined growth of the microorganisms, emphasizing the requirement for a better understanding of growth efficiencies of fungi and bacteria.