Nitrogen mineralization

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Nitrogen mineralization also called ammonification is the biological transformation of organic nitrogen to ammonium (Fig. 1). In this process organic nitrogen from dead cells are degraded by enzymes produced by most microbes and soil animals.


Figure 1. Organic nitrogen component converted to NH4- by mineralization.

Two types of enzymes are involved in production of ammonium (1) extracellular enzymes which degrade organic nitrogen polymers, and (2) intracellar enzymes which degrade organic components within the cell. Several environmental factors regulate the nitrogen mineralization and nitrogen immobilization of which the most important probably is the C/N ratio. When C/N ratio is high, i.e. the nitrogen availability is low, immobilization will dominate. A net production of NH4+ will occur only when C/N is low [1].


  1. Myrold, D.D. 1998. Microbial nitrogen transformations. p. 259-294. In Principles and Applications of Soil Microbiology (D.M. Sylvia, J.J. Fuhrmann, P.G. Hartel, and D.A. Zuberer, eds.). Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
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