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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Agricultural Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358162

Research Project: Ecologically-Sound Pest, Water and Soil Management Practices for Northern Great Plains Cropping Systems

Location: Agricultural Systems Research

Title: Soil microbial community and carbon and nitrogen fractions responses to mulching under winter wheat

Author
item FU, XIN - NORTHWEST UNIVERSITY
item Sainju, Upendra
item ZHAO, FAZHU - NORTHWEST UNIVERSITY
item WANG, JUN - NORTHWEST UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Applied Soil Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/21/2019
Publication Date: 3/28/2019
Citation: Fu, X., Sainju, U.M., Zhao, F., Wang, J. 2019. Soil microbial community and carbon and nitrogen fractions responses to mulching under winter wheat. Applied Soil Ecology. 139:64-68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.03.018.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.03.018

Interpretive Summary: Enhancing soil quality is difficult in dryland crop production areas with marginal rainfall because processes that increase soil organic matter and soil microbial activity depend on consistent soil moisture. Mulching can enhance soil water conservation, carbon and nitrogen sequestration, and crop yields, but how will it affect the activity and diversity of soil microbial communities? Scientists at ARS, Sidney, MT in collaboration with Northwestern University, Xian, China found that nine years of straw mulching enhanced fungal diversity and richness and soil carbon and nitrogen fractions compared to no mulching. In contrast, plastic film mulching reduced bacterial diversity and richness. Producers can adapt straw mulching to enhance biological soil health as well as soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration and nitrogen mineralization in dryland cropping systems.

Technical Abstract: Mulching enhances soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) fractions compared to no mulching, but its effect on soil microbial communities and composition is not clear. We studied the 9-yr effect of straw mulching (SM), plastic film mulching (PM), and no mulching (CK) on soil bacterial and fungal community structure and their relationships to soil C and N fractions under winter wheat in the Loess Plateau of China. The SM did not affect bacterial diversity and richness, but enhanced fungal diversity and richness compared to CK in subsoil layers. The PM also increased fungal diversity and richness, but reduced bacterial diversity or richness. Compared to CK, the relative abundance of Actinobacteria was lower with SM at 0-10 cm, but the abundances of Nitrospirae, Firmicutes, WS3, and Zygomycota were greater with PM at most soil depths. The bacterial diversity correlated to soil C and N fractions and the fungal richness to potential N mineralization and microbial biomass C. Results suggest that both straw and plastic film mulching can enhance fungal diversity and richness compared to no mulching, but straw mulching can better maintain soil microbial diversity and richness and enhance soil C and N fractions than plastic film mulching or no mulching under dryland winter wheat.