Retardation of soil organic carbon (SOC) decay after nitrogen addition to litter or soil has been suggested in several recent studies and has been attributed to a retardation in lignin decay. With our study we tested the long-term effect of mineral fertilization (N+P) on the decay of the SOC component lignin in arable soil. To achieve this, we tracked 13C-labeled lignin and SOC in an arable soil that is part of a 36-year field experiment (conversion from C3 to C4 crops) with two mineral fertilization levels. We could show that fertilization neither retarded nor enhanced the decay of old SOC or lignin over a period of 36 years, proposing that decay of lignin was less sensitive to fertilization than previously suggested. However, for new, C4-derived lignin there were indications that decay might have been enhanced by the fertilization treatment, whereas decay of new SOC was unaffected.