Soil Microbial Indicators within Rotations and Tillage Systems

Microorganisms. 2021 Jun 8;9(6):1244. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9061244.


Recent advancements in agricultural metagenomics allow for characterizing microbial indicators of soil health brought on by changes in management decisions, which ultimately affect the soil environment. Field-scale studies investigating the microbial taxa from agricultural experiments are sparse, with none investigating the long-term effect of crop rotation and tillage on microbial indicator species. Therefore, our goal was to determine the effect of rotations (continuous corn, CCC; continuous soybean, SSS; and each phase of a corn-soybean rotation, Cs and Sc) and tillage (no-till, NT; and chisel tillage, T) on the soil microbial community composition following 20 years of management. We found that crop rotation and tillage influence the soil environment by altering key soil properties, such as pH and soil organic matter (SOM). Monoculture corn lowered pH compared to SSS (5.9 vs. 6.9, respectively) but increased SOM (5.4% vs. 4.6%, respectively). Bacterial indicator microbes were categorized into two groups: SOM dependent and acidophile vs. N adverse and neutrophile. Fungi preferred the CCC rotation, characterized by low pH. Archaeal indicators were mainly ammonia oxidizers with species occupying niches at contrasting pHs. Numerous indicator microbes are involved with N cycling due to the fertilizer-rich environment, prone to aquatic or gaseous losses.

Keywords: archaea; bacteria; fungi; maize; metagenomics; microbial N cycle; monocultures; nitrification; no tillage; soybean.