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Higher rates of nitrogen fertilization decrease soil enzyme activities, microbial functional diversity and nitrification capacity in a Chinese polytunnel greenhouse vegetable land

Abstract

Little is known about effects of high nitrogen (N) fertilization on soil chemical properties, enzyme and microbial activities involved in N and C transformation. Soil EC, pH, mineral N, three enzyme activities, nitrification capacity, and microbial functional diversity were evaluated under conventional N rate (270 or 300 kg  N  ha−1 season−1, N4), 80% (N3), 60% (N2), 40% (N1) and 0% (N0) of N4 during a 2-year cucumber/tomato rotation in polytunnel greenhouse lands in Eastern China. Soil EC, NH +4 -N and NO 3 -N were significantly increased, whilst pH, activities of dehydrogenase, urease and neutral phosphatase, nitrification capacity, and microbial functional diversity decreased significantly with N application rate. Microbial diversity indices deducted from the C-source utilization pattern were significantly lower under the highest N4 rate in the same vegetable season, but varied with seasons among N rates. Both principal component analysis and C substrate utilization patterns displayed significant separation of soil microbial communities between the higher N4 or N3 and the lower N0, N1 and N2 rates. Our results indicated that a 40% reduction of the conventional N fertilization rate was practical to reduce excess N input while maintaining the sustainability of such greenhouse-based intensive vegetable systems in China’s Yangtze River Delta.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a Knowledge Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Kzcx2-yw-408), Key Projects in the National Science & Technology Pillar Program in the Eleventh Five-year Plan Period (2006BAD17B03) and Natural Science Foundation of the Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions of China (09KJB210003). The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and Dr. Hans Lambers, the Responsible Editor of Plant and Soil, for their valuable comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xiangui Lin or Xinhua He.

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Responsible Editor: Hans Lambers.

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Shen, W., Lin, X., Shi, W. et al. Higher rates of nitrogen fertilization decrease soil enzyme activities, microbial functional diversity and nitrification capacity in a Chinese polytunnel greenhouse vegetable land. Plant Soil 337, 137–150 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-010-0511-2

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