Repository logo

The influence of field pea on carbon and nitrogen dynamics and greenhouse gas emissions



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



Pulse crops have been long associated with biological dinitrogen fixation and therefore improve the sustainability of cropping systems when included in rotation. However, studies indicate there may be additional benefits of including pulse crops in rotation. To quantify these potential benefits, soil processes and properties related to nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) cycling were examined in five crop rotations with and without field pea (Pisum sativum L.) in Scott, Saskatchewan. Gross mineralization and nitrification rates were determined using the 15N isotope dilution technique in intact soil cores. To estimate the proportion of nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions derived from nitrification related processes rather than denitrification processes tracer techniques using 15N were used. Field incubations were performed in 2008 at seeding (May 13), anthesis (July 8) and just after harvest (October 8). Mean mineralization and nitrification rates were not significantly different among rotations on any date and there was no significant difference in mean N2O emissions among rotations. From labeled 15NO3- cores, it was determined that nitrification-related processes were the major contributors to N2O emissions. There was no difference among the rotations in microbial biomass carbon (MB-C) or microbial biomass N (MB-N) with the exception of MB-C in the continuous field pea (FP) and the canola (Brassica napus L.)-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-field pea (CNL-W-FP) rotation at anthesis. There was no effect of rotation on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and only seasonal differences were observed with DOC levels being lower before seeding than at anthesis and post-harvest. Based on the results obtained from a single growing season, our results show that N benefits of including field pea in rotation, beyond dinitrigen fixation, were not detectable and that the immediate N benefit of including field pea in rotation may be due simply to the direct effects of biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation. However, there have been reports of pulse crop benefits to succeeding crops in rotation. As a result, we investigated both the quantity and quality of crop residues, which can have an impact on soil properties and processes. Plants enriched with isotopic tracers can be used to trace crop residue decomposition to various C pools but only if the tracer is homogeneously distributed throughout the plant. In order to determine if repeat-pulse labeling could be used to trace crop residue decomposition, this method was followed using 13CO2 to enrich plant material of field pea and canola plants in a controlled environment. The distribution of 13C throughout the plant parts (roots, stem, leaves, and pod) and biochemical fractions [acid detergent fiber (ADF) and acid detergent lignin (ADL)] were determined. It was found that 13C was not homogeneously distributed throughout the plant parts or biochemical fractions. The pod fraction in particular was much less enriched in comparison to the other fractions. The ADL fraction was less enriched than the ADF fraction. Because of the heterogeneity of the label throughout the plant, modifications of the method are needed and 13C distribution through out the plant needs to be assessed before the repeat-pulse method can be used to trace C residue through various C pools. Nevertheless, root contributions to below-ground C were successfully determined from the enriched root material and the resulting enriched soil. It was found that canola contributed more above- and below-ground residues than field pea, however canola was also higher in ADF and ADL fractions indicating a more recalcitrant residue. Research should continue to better define the impact of pulse crop residues on C and N cycling and subsequent crops in rotation.



Carbon, Below-ground biomass, Isotopes, Gross mineralization, Gross nitrification



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Soil Science


Soil Science


Part Of