Following legume establishment, microbial and chemical associations facilitate improved productivity in degraded grasslands
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Backgrounds and aims
Mowing and P-fertilization enhance legume seedling establishment, assisting in successful restoration of degraded grasslands. Legume establishment may influence soil chemical compounds and soil microbial assemblage to facilitate legume productivity. We aim to better understand these complex plant-soil-microbial interactions to improve grassland productivity following overgrazing.
We conducted a 3-years Medicago falcata reseeding experiment was in semi-arid meadows, assessing responses of aboveground plant biomass, soil chemical compounds, and soil microbial community composition. Reseeded plots were mowed and/or P-fertilized.
Application of both management practices increased grassland biomass compared with all other combinations. Soil chemical diversity predicted fungal alpha diversity, and fungal alpha diversity positively correlated with aboveground biomass. Our results indicate reseeded alfalfa directly altered bulk soil chemical compounds with subsequent alterations in grassland microbial communities. Soils contained chemical compounds with antifungal properties that indirectly improved grassland productivity via antagonism to pathogenic fungi. Furthermore, we found three specific compounds (5-methyltridecane, pentatriacontane, and N-tridecane) reduced microbial diversity.
Here we demonstrate soil chemical compounds play an important role in shaping beneficial microbial communities to improve grassland biomass. These results may help direct beneficial soil microbial community composition through improved grassland management practices.
KeywordsReseeding Medicago falcata P-fertilization and mowing Soil chemical compounds MiSeq sequencing Microbial communities Network analysis
We thank Xiaoping Xin, director of the Hulunber Grassland Ecosystem Observation and Research Station for use of these research facilities. We also thank Dr. Xinquan Zhang and Dr. Feida Sun from Sichuan Agricultural University for their valuable advice on manuscript improvement. This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31602006), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BK20160735), the Nanjing Agricultural University Foundation (Y0201600442), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2015 M581815), the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (1601265C), and the earmarked fund for the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-34). This work is also supported by the Post Doctoral Fellowships Program, [project no. OKL03144 / project accession no. 1019172], from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
JZ, FZ and YZ conceived the ideas and designed the methodology; JZ, FZ, YH, and XX collected the data; JZ and FZ analyzed the data; JZ, FZ, and YZ led the writing of the manuscript; GW, AC, XX, and LL revised the manuscript for intellectual content; all authors contributed to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.
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