Plant and Soil

, Volume 368, Issue 1, pp 407–417

Effects of nitrogen fertilization and root interaction on the agronomic traits of intercropped maize, and the quantity of microorganisms and activity of enzymes in the rhizosphere

  • Xiangqian Zhang
  • Guoqin Huang
  • Xinmin Bian
  • Qiguo Zhao
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-012-1528-5

Cite this article as:
Zhang, X., Huang, G., Bian, X. et al. Plant Soil (2013) 368: 407. doi:10.1007/s11104-012-1528-5



To elucidate the mechanisms of the beneficial effects of below-ground root interactions in maize plus legume intercropping system,


A pot experiment was conducted using root separation techniques.


It is shown that root interaction and nitrogen fertilization increased chlorophyll content and improved plant characteristics of maize, and the effect of root interaction was significant (p<0.05). Compared to a full root separation treatment, no root separation increased the leaf and grain nitrogen contents, and economic and biological yields per maize plant by 9.3  %, 6.0  %, 14.0  %, and 6.5  %, respectively. Root interaction and nitrogen fertilization enhanced the numbers of bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and Azotobacteria and the activities of urease, invertase, acid-phosphatase and protease in soil. Correlation analyses revealed that the quantity of microorganisms and the activity of the aforementioned enzymes were all positively or significantly (p<0.05) positively correlated with chlorophyll content, plant height and economic and biological yields per maize plant.


The findings demonstrate that root interactions are important in improving the soil micro-ecological environment, increasing microbial quantity and enzyme activity in soil, and enhancing crop yield.


Root interactionChlorophyll contentYieldMicrobial quantityEnzyme activities



no root separation


partial root separation with nylon nets


full root separation with plastic film

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiangqian Zhang
    • 1
  • Guoqin Huang
    • 2
  • Xinmin Bian
    • 1
  • Qiguo Zhao
    • 3
  1. 1.Agricultural CollegeNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Research Center on Ecological SciencesJiangxi Agricultural UniversityNanchangPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Nanjing Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingPeople’s Republic of China