Shifts in the frequency and magnitude of rain events (precipitation patterns) associated with climate change may impact ecosystem nitrogen and carbon cycling through effects on plant physiology and soil microbial activity. Here, we determined how the combination of temporal irrigation distribution and N supply affects plant-microbial C and N dynamics in microcosms with winter wheat. First, we investigated legacy effect of 12 weeks of contrasting irrigation distribution (frequent and small versus infrequent and large water inputs) and N inputs (high versus low) on plant biomass, organic and inorganic N pools, and potential nitrification and denitrification rates. Second, we investigated legacy effects of these treatments on C and N fluxes in plants and microbes over 29 h after a rewetting event, using 13C-CO2 and 15N-NH4 labeling. We found that irrigation distribution and N input led to significant differences in plant responses and soil C input, setting the scene for the rewetting response. Immediately after rewetting, microorganisms outcompeted plants for soil mineral N. However, over time, the net outcome of competition improved for plants regardless of water or N input history. Further, we found that a history of frequent irrigation led to more productive plants (biomass and rate of photosynthesis) and increased their net competitiveness for N over microorganisms. This suggests that the shift toward more extreme fluctuations in soil moisture predicted by climate forecasts for most temperate zones may have negative implications for plant productivity due to altered N dynamics between plants and soil microorganisms.
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This research was supported by grants by the ANR (grant ANR-13-JSV7-0004), the European Commission (Career Integration Grant FP7-MC-CIG #618010) and the Conseil Régional de Bourgogne to RB. IE was supported in part by an INRAE Ph.D. fellowship (Département Environnement et Agronomie). We thank Armel Martin for letting us use his soil, Thomas Manet for help with the experimental setup, Michel Laderach (Dijon Céréales) for providing the seeds, Arnaud Mounier for help with the bioinformatics pipeline, Werner Eugster and Arnaud Coffin for help with the loggers, Karine Palavioux, Céline Bernard, Franck Zenk, Damien Gironde and Noureddine El Mjiyad for help in the greenhouse, Marielle Adrian and Marie-Claire Héloir for the Li-6400, Annelein Meisner, Lucia Galiano, Amy Welty for help with the harvest, Matthias Saurer for help with the microbial biomass 13C and 15N measurements, Olivier Mathieu for help with the plant 13C and 15N measurements, Jérôme Fromentin, Patrick Callier, Caroline Chapusot and Benjamin Tournier for help with the bioanalyzer, Virginie Bourion for root scans, and Matthieu Barret for providing the bacterial mock community, assembled within the MetaBAR project funded by INRAE MEM Metaprogramme.
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Engelhardt, I.C., Niklaus, P.A., Bizouard, F. et al. Precipitation patterns and N availability alter plant-soil microbial C and N dynamics. Plant Soil 466, 151–163 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-021-05015-7
- Precipitation legacy
- Soil rewetting
- Plant-microbial synchronicity
- C transfer
- Nitrogen cycling