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Pattern of Humus Decomposition in East African Soils


HUMUS decomposition under bare fallow has now been measured during five successive wet and dry seasons. Soil samples were taken periodically (about once a week during the wet season) and put in the macro-respirometer1. The average daily rate of decomposition for the following two days was taken as a comparative measure of the rate at the time of sampling. Using this technique it was found that a relatively high and similar rate of decomposition occurred at the start of each wet period but fell rapidly as uniform moist conditions continued (for example, from 12 mgm. carbon per day at the start of the rains to 4 mgm. three to four weeks later with a soil containing about 6 per cent carbon). Decomposition during the intermediate dry periods was almost negligible.

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  1. 1

    Birch, H. F., and Friend, M. T., Nature, 178, 500 (1950).

  2. 2

    Burd, J. S., and Martin, J. C., Soil Sci., 18, 151 (1924).

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