Articles | Volume 1, issue 1
Original research article
06 Jan 2015
Original research article |  | 06 Jan 2015

Influence of long-term mineral fertilization on metal contents and properties of soil samples taken from different locations in Hesse, Germany

S. Czarnecki and R.-A. Düring

Abstract. Essential and non-essential metals occur in soils as a result of weathering, industrial processes, fertilization, and atmospheric deposition. Badly adapted cultivation of agricultural soils (declining pH value, application of unsuitable fertilizers) can enhance the mobility of metals and thereby increase their concentrations in agricultural products. As the enrichment of metals in soils occurs over long time periods, monitoring of the long-term impact of fertilization is necessary to assess metal accumulation in agricultural soils. The main objective of this study was to test the effects of different mineral fertilizer variations on soil properties (pH, Corg, and cation exchange capacity (CEC)) and pseudo-total and mobile metal contents of soils after 14 years of fertilizer application and to determine residual effects of the fertilization 8 years after cessation of fertilizer treatment. Soil samples were taken from a field experiment which was carried out at four different locations (210, 260, 360, and 620 m above sea level) in Hesse, Germany. During the study, a significant decrease in soil pH and an evident increase in soil carbon content and cation exchange capacity with fertilization were determined. The CEC of the soils was closely related to their organic C contents. Moreover, pseudo- and mobile metal (Cd, Cu, Mn, Pb, Zn) contents in the soils increased due to application of 14 years of mineral fertilizer treatments (N, P, NP, and NPK) when compared to control plots. Eight years after termination of the fertilization in the soil samples taken from soil profiles of the fertilized plots (NPK) for monitoring the residual effects of the fertilizer application, a decrease of 82.6, 54.2, 48.5, 74.4, and 56.9% in pseudo-total Cd, Cu, Mn, Pb, and Zn contents, respectively, was determined.

Short summary
This study covers both aspects of understanding of soil system and soil contamination after 14 years of fertilizer application and residual effects of the fertilization 8 years after cessation of fertilizer treatment. Although many grassland fertilizer experiments have been performed worldwide, information about residual effects of fertilizer applications on grassland ecosystem functioning is still rare. This study reports the importance of monitoring of the long-term impact of fertilization.