Microbial Ecology

, Volume 70, Issue 3, pp 795–808 | Cite as

Tillage Management and Seasonal Effects on Denitrifier Community Abundance, Gene Expression and Structure over Winter

  • Enrico Tatti
  • Claudia Goyer
  • David L. Burton
  • Sophie Wertz
  • Bernie J. Zebarth
  • Martin Chantigny
  • Martin Filion
Soil Microbiology


Tillage effects on denitrifier communities and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions were mainly studied during the growing season. There is limited information for the non-growing season, especially in northern countries where winter has prolonged periods with sub-zero temperatures. The abundance and structure of the denitrifier community, denitrification gene expression and N2O emissions in fields under long-term tillage regimes [no-tillage (NT) vs conventional tillage (CT)] were assessed during two consecutive winters. NT exerted a positive effect on nirK and nosZ denitrifier abundance in both winters compared to CT. Moreover, the two contrasting managements had an opposite influence on nirK and nirS RNA/DNA ratios. Tillage management resulted in different denitrifier community structures during both winters. Seasonal changes were observed in the abundance and the structure of denitrifiers. Interestingly, the RNA/DNA ratios were greater in the coldest months for nirK, nirS and nosZ. N2O emissions were not influenced by management but changed over time with two orders of magnitude increase in the coldest month of both winters. In winter of 2009–2010, emissions were mainly as N2O, whereas in 2010–2011, when soil temperatures were milder due to persistent snow cover, most emissions were as dinitrogen. Results indicated that tillage management during the growing season induced differences in denitrifier community structure that persisted during winter. However, management did not affect the active cold-adapted community structure.


Denitrifiers Frozen versus unfrozen soils Tillage Greenhouse gas emission 



We would like to acknowledge the great technical work of Drucie Janes and the critical reading of the manuscript of Dr. Lindsay Brin. We also like to thank Dr. Cindy Smith and Dr. Fabiana Paula for useful comments to the manuscript. Funding for this study was provided by the Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Systems (SAGES) initiative of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Supplementary material

248_2015_591_Fig5_ESM.gif (119 kb)
Fig. S1

Daily atmospheric maximum temperature (Atm. max. temp.) and soil temperatures (Soil temp.), snow depth (A and B) and volumetric water content (VWC) (C and D)in winters of 2009-2010 (A, C) and 2010-2011 (B, D). Soil temperature and snow depth are averaged across tillage management (n = 3). Soil temperature and soil volumetric water content (VWC) were measured at 5 cm and 15 cm soil depths, respectively. Soil VWC is a measure of liquid water content thus the rapid drop in water content in January and/or February likely reflects soil freezing. The sampling dates were indicated using closed circles and soil temperatures (in °C) on the specific sampling dates are indicated. NT: no tillage regime, CT: conventional tillage regime. (GIF 118 kb)

248_2015_591_MOESM1_ESM.eps (1.6 mb)
High resolution image (EPS 1653 kb)
248_2015_591_Fig6_ESM.gif (59 kb)
Fig. S2

Concentrations of NO3 -(A, B) and NH4 +(C and D) in winter 2009-2010 (A, C) and 2010-2011 (B, D).Values are means (n = 5) and error bars represent one standard error. Significant differences based on Tukey’s test (p < 0.05) among sampling times are represented by lowercase letters under the X axis. No significant interaction between time and treatment was found. NT: no tillage regime, CT: conventional tillage regime. (GIF 58 kb)

248_2015_591_MOESM2_ESM.eps (1 mb)
High resolution image (EPS 1071 kb)
248_2015_591_Fig7_ESM.gif (38 kb)
Fig. S3

Potential denitrification measured using denitrification enzyme assay (DEA) in winter 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Values are means (n = 5) and error bar are standard errors. Significant differences based on Tukey’s test (p < 0.05)between sampling times are represented by letters under the x axis. (GIF 37 kb)

248_2015_591_MOESM3_ESM.eps (784 kb)
High resolution image (EPS 784 kb)
248_2015_591_Fig8_ESM.gif (79 kb)
Fig. S4

Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) of nirK (A), nirS (B) and nosZ (C) and active (RNA transcripts) nirK (D) denitrifier community structures (plotted as symbols) obtained by T-RFLP in relation to soil environmental variables and gas emissions rates (plotted as vectors) in winter 2010-2011. Treatments are indicated by open (NT, no-tillage regime) and closed symbols (CT, conventional tillage regime). (GIF 79 kb)

248_2015_591_MOESM4_ESM.eps (1 mb)
High resolution image (EPS 1032 kb)
248_2015_591_MOESM5_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Table S1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada as represented by: Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enrico Tatti
    • 1
  • Claudia Goyer
    • 1
  • David L. Burton
    • 2
  • Sophie Wertz
    • 1
  • Bernie J. Zebarth
    • 1
  • Martin Chantigny
    • 3
  • Martin Filion
    • 4
  1. 1.Potato Research CentreAgriculture and Agri-Food CanadaFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences, Agricultural CampusDalhousie UniversityTruroCanada
  3. 3.Soils and Crops Research and Development CentreAgriculture and Agri-Food CanadaQuébecCanada
  4. 4.Département de BiologieUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada

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