Vermicompost improves microbial functions of soil with continuous tomato cropping in a greenhouse

Abstract

Purpose

At present, the improvement of soil microbial function by the application of vermicompost in long-term monoculture system is rarely reported. We took advantage of a greenhouse pot experiment that examined the effects of vermicompost on soil microbial properties, enzyme activities, and tomato yield.

Materials and methods

Three soils subjected to 0, 5, and 20 years of continuous tomato cropping in a greenhouse were collected for a pot experiment. Treatments include chemical fertilizer (CF), vermicompost (VM), and poultry manure compost (PM). No fertilization was established as a control (CK). Biolog Eco microplates were used to measure soil microbial function.

Results and discussion

The results showed that compared to the CF and PM treatments, the VM treatment increased the abundances of bacteria (Bac, average 41% and 103%, respectively) and actinomycetes (Act, average 8.59% and 16.36%, respectively), while decreased the abundance of fungi (Fun, average 39% and 29%, respectively), and had the highest ratio of bacteria to fungi. Soil microbial activity, which was represented as the average well color development (AWCD), and microbial functional diversity were higher in the VM treatment than in the CF and PM treatments. The VM treatment led to greater improvement in soil health than the PM treatment, which expressed as the higher utilization of carboxylic acids and phenolic compounds in each type of soil. Catalase (Cat) and polyphenoloxidase (Ppo) activities in the VM treatment were significantly higher than those in the CF and PM treatments. We also found that the soil Cat activity, pH, available P, acid phosphatase (Pac) activity, and Ppo activity were important contributors to variation in the microbial population. Moreover, compared to CK, fruit yield in the VM treatment increased by 74%, 43%, and 28% in soils subjected to 0, 5, and 20 years of planting, respectively.

Conclusions

Our findings indicated that vermicompost can replace poultry manure compost to improve soil quality in greenhouse due to the ability of vermicompost to improve soil microbial functions.

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Funding

This study was financially supported by The Foundation of Special Professor in Liaoning Province, the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0201004), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31372132). We thank LetPub (www.letpub.com) for its linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.

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Fengyan Zhao and Lijuan Yang conceived and designed the study; Fengyan Zhao performed the experiments, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript; Yongyong Zhang and Lijuan Yang revised the manuscript; Lijuan Yang applied for funding for the study; Jinwei Shi, Guoxian Zhang and Hui Zhang managed the experiment and collected the data.

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Correspondence to Lijuan Yang.

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Zhao, F., Zhang, Y., Li, Z. et al. Vermicompost improves microbial functions of soil with continuous tomato cropping in a greenhouse. J Soils Sediments 20, 380–391 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-019-02362-y

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Keywords

  • Chemical fertilizer
  • Poultry manure
  • Soil chemical properties
  • Soil microbial function
  • Tomato yield