Initial water repellency affected organic matter depletion rates of manure amended soils in Sri Lanka

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The wetting rate of soil is a measure of water repellency, which is a property of soils that prevents water from wetting or penetrating into dry soil. The objective of the present research was to examine the initial water repellency of organic manure amended soil, and its relation to the soil organic matter (SOM) depletion rates in the laboratory. Soil collected from the Wilpita natural forest, Sri Lanka, was mixed with organic manure to prepare soil samples with 0, 5, 10, 25, and 50% organic manure contents. Locally available cattle manure (CM), goat manure (GM), and Casuarina equisetifolia leaves (CE) were used as the organic manure amendments. Organic matter content of soils was measured in 1, 3, 7, 14, and 30 days intervals under the laboratory conditions with 74±5% relative humidity at 28±1°C. Initial water repellency of soil samples was measured as the wetting rates using the water drop penetration time (WDPT) test. Initial water repellency increased with increasing SOM content showing higher increasing rate for hydrophobic CE amended samples compared with those amended with CM and GM. The relation between water repellency and SOM content was considered to be governed by the original hydrophobicities of added manures. The SOM contents of all the soil samples decreased with the time to reach almost steady level at about 30 d. The initial SOM depletion rates were negatively related with the initial water repellency. However, all the CE amended samples initially showed prominent low SOM depletion rates, which were not significantly differed with the amended manure content or the difference in initial water repellency. It is explicable that the original hydrophobicity of the manure as well has a potentially important effect on initiation of SOM decomposition. In contrast, the overall SOM depletion rate can be attributed to the initial water repellency of the manure amended sample, however, not to the original hydrophobicity of the amended manure. Hydrophobic protection may prevent rapid microbial decomposition of SOM and it is conceivable that hydrophobic substances in appropriate composition may reduce organic matter mineralization in soil. These results suggest the contribution of hydrophobic organic substances in bioresistance of SOM and their long-term accumulation in soils

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