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Soil microbial community and chemical properties response to blueberry–soybean intercropping system

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Background and aims

Current global population growth and agricultural land resource limitations have led to intensifying conflicts between grain and fruit production.


We designed a potted blueberry–soybean intercropping system to evaluate its impacts on crop yield, disease occurrence, and soil microbial community composition using survey statistics, high-throughput sequencing, and correlation analysis.


The results demonstrate that the blueberry–soybean intercropping system is a feasible solution for obtaining additional soybean yield by the filed investigation. "Blueberry-polluted soil (BPS)" sampled at a depth of 5 cm and rhizosphere soil sampled from intercropped 'Huayan 1' soybean plants (HYS) showed significantly higher fungal and bacterial diversity than control bulk soil (CK) with no cultivation history. Microbial communities and unique OTUs were differentially enriched in BPS and HYS, respectively, and the HYS effect was more pronounced through high-throughput sequencing. Correlation analysis revealed that pH, organic matter, and total N were the main factors driving soil chemistry-mediated microbial differences in the community between CK and both HYS and BPS. The significantly lower microbial abundance in BPS was likely related to N fixation, whereas significantly enriched bacteria in HYS were related to the N regulatory protein C protein family, N regulatory IIA and P-II2 proteins, N fixation regulation proteins, and other N-related functions (p < 0.05), indicating that blueberry–soybean intercropping significantly improves microbial function in the soil.


These findings demonstrate that intercropping system could improve the acidification of soil and reduce the depletion of soil functional microorganisms caused by continuous monoculture of blueberries. Also, it could help coordinated development of grain and fruit production, particularly in regions facing both food shortages and limited arable land in the world.

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Data availability

The original contributions presented in the study are publicly available. These data can be found in the Short Read Archive (SRA) at NCBI database under accession number PRJNA1036779. The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This work was supported by the Young Talent Project of Yunnan Revitalization Talent Support Program (XDYC-QNRC-2022-0719), the Basic Research Program for Youths in Yunnan Province (202201AU070182), and the Expert Workstation Project in Yunnan Province (202105AF150046).

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Authors and Affiliations



Youyong Zhu proposed the blueberry-soybean intercropping model. Yingbin Li designed and conducted the experiments. Linna Ma, Xiang Li, and Yingbin Li analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. Manuscript preparation under the advisory of Zhiping Zhang, Huichuan Huang, Yixiang Liu, and Shusheng Zhu. Ting Zhang and Haibin Duan provided seed/seedling resources and field management, respectively. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yingbin Li.

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Competing interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Responsible Editor: Xiaolin Yang.

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Linna Ma and Xiang Li contributed equally, the order of the first authors was decided by flipping a coin.

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Ma, L., Li, X., Zhang, Z. et al. Soil microbial community and chemical properties response to blueberry–soybean intercropping system. Plant Soil (2024).

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