Soil Chemical and Microbiological Properties Are Changed by Long-Term Chemical Fertilizers That Limit Ecosystem Functioning

Microorganisms. 2020 May 8;8(5):694. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8050694.


Although the effects of fertilization and microbiota on plant growth have been widely studied, our understanding of the chemical fertilizers to alter soil chemical and microbiological properties in woody plants is still limited. The aim of the present study is to investigate the impact of long-term application of chemical fertilizers on chemical and microbiological properties of root-associated soils of walnut trees. The results show that soil organic matter (OM), pHkcl, total nitrogen (TN), nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-), and total phosphorus (TP) contents were significantly higher in non-fertilized soil than after chemical fertilization. The long-term fertilization led to excessive ammonium-nitrogen (NH4+) and available phosphorus (AP) residues in the cultivated soil, among which NH4+ resulted in soil acidification and changes in bacterial community structure, while AP reduced fungal diversity. The naturally grown walnut trees led to an enrichment in beneficial bacteria such as Burkholderia, Nitrospira, Pseudomonas, and Candidatus_Solibacter, as well as fungi, including Trichoderma, Lophiostoma, Phomopsis, Ilyonectria, Purpureocillium, Cylindrocladiella, Hyalorbilia, Chaetomium, and Trichoglossum. The presence of these bacterial and fungal genera that have been associated with nutrient mobilization and plant growth was likely related to the higher soil OM, TN, NO3-, and TP contents in the non-fertilized plots. These findings highlight that reduced chemical fertilizers and organic cultivation with beneficial microbiota could be used to improve economic efficiency and benefit the environment in sustainable agriculture.

Keywords: fertilization; microbial communities; soil chemical properties; sustainable agriculture; walnut.