Cover crop species have contrasting influence upon soil structural genesis and microbial community phenotype

Bacq-Labreuil, A., Crawford, J. , Mooney, S. J., Neal, A. L. and Ritz, K. (2019) Cover crop species have contrasting influence upon soil structural genesis and microbial community phenotype. Scientific Reports, 9, 7473. (doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43937-6) (PMID:31097750) (PMCID:PMC6522496)

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Cover crops (plants grown in an agricultural rotation between cash crops) can significantly improve soil quality via sequestering carbon, retaining nutrients, decreasing soil erosion, and maintaining belowground biodiversity. However, little is known about the effects of such plants upon soil structure. The aim of the study was to assess the impact of four species typically used as cover crops and which have contrasting root architecture (viz. clover, black oat, phacelia, tillage radish) on soil structural genesis and the associated modification of microbial community structure in a clay soil. The four plant species were grown in a replicated pot experiment with sieved soil (<2 mm), with unplanted soil as control for 8 weeks. X-ray Computed Tomography was used to quantify the formation of pore networks in 3D and phospholipid fatty acid analysis was performed to characterise the microbial community phenotype. Black oats developed a greater soil-pore connectivity than the other species throughout the growth period, whereas phacelia decreased both the porosity and pore-connectivity. The microbial community phenotype under phacelia was notably different from the other species, with a greater proportion of fungal markers. Thus, different plant species have differential effects upon soil structural genesis and microbial community phenotype, which provides evidence that certain species may be more suitable as cover crops in terms of soil structural conditioning depending upon specific contexts.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The University of Nottingham Hounsfield Facility receives funding from BBSRC (Swindon, UK), and The Wolfson Foundation (London, UK). This work is supported by the BBSRC-funded Soil to Nutrition strategic programme (BBS/E/C/000I0310) and jointly by the Natural Environment Research Council and BBSRC as part of the Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems research programme (BBS/E/C/000I0130).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Crawford, Professor John
Authors: Bacq-Labreuil, A., Crawford, J., Mooney, S. J., Neal, A. L., and Ritz, K.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Scientific Reports
Publisher:Nature Research
ISSN (Online):2045-2322
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Scientific Reports 9: 7473
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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