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Jasmin Schomakers, Franz Zehetner, Axel Mentler, Franz Ottner and Herwig Mayer

Open access

Jasmin Schomakers, Franz Zehetner, Axel Mentler, Franz Ottner and Herwig Mayer

Abstract

It has been increasingly recognized that soil organic matter stabilization is strongly controlled by physical binding within soil aggregates. It is therefore essential to measure soil aggregate stability reliably over a wide range of disruptive energies and different aggregate sizes. To this end, we tested highaccuracy ultrasonic dispersion in combination with subsequent sedimentation and X-ray attenuation. Three arable topsoils (notillage) from Central Europe were subjected to ultrasound at four different specific energy levels: 0.5, 6.7, 100 and 500 J cm-3, and the resulting suspensions were analyzed for aggregate size distribution by wet sieving (2 000-63 μm) and sedimentation/X-ray attenuation (63-2 μm). The combination of wet sieving and sedimentation technique allowed for a continuous analysis, at high resolution, of soil aggregate breakdown dynamics after defined energy inputs. Our results show that aggregate size distribution strongly varied with sonication energy input and soil type. The strongest effects were observed in the range of low specific energies (< 10 J cm-3), which previous studies have largely neglected. This shows that low ultrasonic energies are required to capture the full range of aggregate stability and release of soil organic matter upon aggregate breakdown.