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Arable soil nitrogen dynamics reflect organic inputs via the extended composite phenotype

Neal, Andrew L.; Barrat, Harry A.; Bacq-Lebreuil, Aurélie; Qin, Yuwei; Zhang, Xiaoxian; Takahashi, Taro; Rubio, Valentina; Hughes, David; Clark, Ian M.; Cárdenas, Laura M.; Gardiner, Laura-Jayne; Krishna, Ritesh; Glendining, Margaret L.; Ritz, Karl; Mooney, Sacha J.; Crawford, John W.


Andrew L. Neal

Harry A. Barrat

Aurélie Bacq-Lebreuil

Yuwei Qin

Xiaoxian Zhang

Taro Takahashi

Valentina Rubio

David Hughes

Ian M. Clark

Laura M. Cárdenas

Laura-Jayne Gardiner

Ritesh Krishna

Margaret L. Glendining

Karl Ritz

Professor of Soil Physics

John W. Crawford


Achieving food security requires resilient agricultural systems with improved nutrient-use efficiency, optimized water and nutrient storage in soils, and reduced gaseous emissions. Success relies on understanding coupled nitrogen and carbon metabolism in soils, their associated influences on soil structure and the processes controlling nitrogen transformations at scales relevant to microbial activity. Here we show that the influence of organic matter on arable soil nitrogen transformations can be decoded by integrating metagenomic data with soil structural parameters. Our approach provides a mechanistic explanation of why organic matter is effective in reducing nitrous oxide losses while supporting system resilience. The relationship between organic carbon, soil-connected porosity and flow rates at scales relevant to microbes suggests that important increases in nutrient-use efficiency could be achieved at lower organic carbon stocks than currently envisaged.


Neal, A. L., Barrat, H. A., Bacq-Lebreuil, A., Qin, Y., Zhang, X., Takahashi, T., …Crawford, J. W. (2023). Arable soil nitrogen dynamics reflect organic inputs via the extended composite phenotype. Nature Food, 4, 51-60.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 28, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 23, 2022
Publication Date 2023-01
Deposit Date Oct 31, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 24, 2023
Journal Nature Food
Print ISSN 2662-1355
Electronic ISSN 2662-1355
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Pages 51-60
Public URL
Publisher URL