Insufficient populations of Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter were found in a Pahokee muck soil (Lithic medidaprit) to account for the nitrate concentration observed. To determine if heterotrophic nitrifiers could account for some of this discrepancy, a method was developed to measure the levels of heterotrophic nitrifiers in soil. A population of 4.1 X 10(5) Arthrobacter per g of dry fallow soil, capable of producing nitrite and/or nitrate from reduced nitrogenous compounds, was observed. Amendment of the much with 0.5% (wt/wt) sodium acetate and 0.1% (wt/wt) ammonium-nitrogen as ammonium sulfate (final concentrations) not only resulted in the usual increase in autotrophic nitrifiers, but also in a fourfold increase in the heterotrophic nitrifying Arrthrobacter. Amendment of like samples with N-Serve [2-chloro-6(trichloromethyl) pyridinel] prevented the increase in Nitrosomonas, but not that in the heterotrophic nitrifiers. Nitrate production in the presence of the inhibitor was diminished but not prevented. An Arthrobacter sp., isolated from the muck, produced nitrite when inoculated at high densities into sterile soil, unamended or amended with sodium acetate and/or ammomium sulfate. These data suggest that the heterotrophic population may be responsible for some of the nitrate produced in these Histosols
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