Microbial community structure under various wheat-based cropping systems
The effects of cropping systems on soil biological quality are slow to develop. We sampled the soil of a 36-year old long-term experiment established on an Orthic Brown Chernozem, at Swift Current SK, in the fall of 2003, to define the long-term impact of 10 cropping systems on soil biological quality. Numerous variables related to soil function - soil pH, organic C (SOC), moisture, enzymatic activities, available N, P, and S - and soil community structure - phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) indicators of fungal saprobes, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and bacterial groups - were used to describe soil quality. Soils under different cropping systems had become distinct, as revealed by discriminant analyses. Variations in SOC, and pH were most influential in discriminating the soils. SOC varied from 2.38% under continuous wheat to 1.81% under a fallow-wheat rotation. pH went from 6.55 under fallow-wheat-wheat receiving no P-fertilizer, to 4.89, under chemical fallow – fall rye – wheat. Absence of fallow under normal fertilization increased SOC and decreased soil pH. Variations in SOC and pH were concurrent with variations in microbial community structure. Enhanced AM fungi abundance under low soil P, could compensate for the large soil P depletion created by 36 years without P fertilizer, in a fallow-wheat-wheat rotation, and P-fertilized and non-P-fertilized plots produced similar yields. The season of 2003 was dryer than normal and it remains to be seen if AM fungi can compensate for low soil available P when soil moisture is abundant.
soil microbial populations, PLFA, mycorrhizal fungi, saprobes, available phosphorus, soil functioning, wheat yield
Soils and Crops Workshop