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Organic amendment practices as possible drivers of biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds emitted by soils in agrosystems

Kevin Potard (a,b), Cécile Monard (a), Jean-Luc Le Garrec (b), Jean-Pierre Caudal (a), Nathalie Le Bris (a), Françoise Binet (a)

Potard & al., 2017
Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment Volume 250, 1 December 2017, Pages 25-36 and Volume: 255, Mars 2018, Pages: 119-120

Terrestrial ground is the main interface involved in the Carbon balance thus plays a main role in the air quality as it directly contributes to global warming being a source of greenhouses gases that are emitted from the soil to the troposphere [1]. Such emissions mainly concern carbon dioxide (CO2) along with trace gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) [2]. Other trace gases emitted from ground to atmosphere are the volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs (isoprene, terpenes, alkanes, alkenes, alcohols, esters, carbonyls, and acids) play an important role in both atmospheric chemistry and pollution (as precursor of Ozone and through the formation of AOS) they indirectly contribute to global warming and directly alter the air quality both impacting on human health and ecosystem productivity [3]. Natural biogenic processes constitute the main sources of VOCs released into the atmosphere [4]. If VOCs emissions by plants are relatively well documented, much less attention has been paid to VOCs emissions from the ground (soils and the organic litter they receive) especially from managed soils in agriculture. Biogenic VOCs released by soil are produced during soil organic matter (SOM) breakdown and degradation by soil microorganisms [5] and soil organic amendments increase the SOM content and the soil microbial biomass [6]. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that manure fertilization controls the biogenic VOCs fluxes emitted by soils by affecting the living soil microorganisms. We thus investigated whether soil organic amendments change the diversity of VOCs emitted by soils, whether they increase the C-VOCs flux emitted by soils, and whether they affect bacterial diversity.

Fig Potard 2017

Main results

We investigated whether perennial soil organic amendments of pig slurry (PS) and methanized pig slurry (MPS) affect active bacterial communities and change the diversity and the C-flux of VOCs emitted by soils compared to control plots without any fertilization (C) (figure 1).

Fig.1 Potard 2017

Figure 1 : Diversity of VOCs emitted : No effect of the 5-yr fertilization history was observed neither on bacterial communities’ composition nor on soil VOCs emissions (see Before input bar in each treatment). Cropped soil emitted significant amounts of acetonitrile (mass m42, purple ) irrespective of manure fertilization. Pig slurry activated native soil Bacillus sp. but not the methanized pig slurry (not schown) and deeply changed the VOCs spectra with Methanol being dominant (mass m33).

The long term effects of the fertilization history of the amendments and the short term impact of the organic inputs were both investigated by measuring VOCs emissions using a Proton Transfer Reaction-Mass Spectrometer (PTR-MS) and by analyzing active bacterial diversity by MiSeq Illumina sequencing just before and up to 64 days following the inputs. Soil VOCs emissions (diversity and fluxes) naturally varied with temperature and rainfall variations, irrespective of manure inputs. No effect of the 5-yr fertilization history was observed on bacterial communities’ composition and on soil VOCs emissions. However, both manure inputs (PS and MPS) were associated with an inoculation of γ-Proteobacteria (Pseudomonas sp. and/or Marinospirillum sp.) to the soil on top of which PS inputs activated native soil Bacillus sp. (Firmicutes). VOCs spectra were mainly dominated by methanol and acetonitrile, the acetonitrile emissions not depending on the organic practices. C-VOCs fluxes from the soil to the atmosphere varied from 12 to 76 μg of C-VOCs h−1 m−2 in the control plots (figure 2).

fig.2 Potard 2017

Figure 2 : C-flux of VOCs emitted : Pig slurry input doubled C-VOC fluxes emitted into the air while Methanized pig slurry lowered C-VOC fluxes under those of the control plot.

Pig slurry and methanized pig slurry differentially impacted soil VOCs emissions: PS inputs doubled the C-VOC fluxes due to high emission of methanol while MPS inputs reduced VOCs fluxes even less than the control unamended plots, which is of great interest in the context of mitigating greenhouse gases in agriculture. Our results suggest that soil fluxes could, under certain conditions, not be marginal compared to plant fluxes and be potentially driven by new land-uses in agriculture.


1. Oertel, C., Matschullat, J., Zurba, K., Zimmermann, F., Erasmi, S., 2016. Greenhouse gas emissions from soils—a review. Chemie der Erde – Geochem. 76, 327–352.

2. Lashof, D.A., Ahuja, D.R., 1990. Relative contributions of greenhouse gas emissions to global warming. Nature 344, 529–531.

3. Leighton, P. (2012). Photochemistry of Air Pollution.  Elsevier.

4. Atkinson, R., Arey, J., 2003a. Gas-phase tropospheric chemistry of biogenic volatile organic compounds: a review. Atmos. Environ. 37, 197–219.

5. Ramirez, K.S., Lauber, C.L., Fierer, N., 2009. Microbial consumption and production of volatile organic compounds at the soil-litter interface. Biogeochemistry 99, 97–107.

6. Leff, J.W., Fierer, N., 2008. Volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from soil and litter samples. Soil Biol. Biochem. 40, 1629–1636.


a Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6553 ECOBIO, Campus de Beaulieu, 265 Av. Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France

b Université de Rennes 1, CNRS UMR 6251, Institut de Physique de Rennes, Campus de Beaulieu, 265 Av. Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France