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Decomposition of different crop straws and variation in straw-associated microbial communities in a peach orchard, China

Abstract

Crop residue is a major source of soil organic matter; therefore, application of crop straw to soil contributes to the sustainable development of organic agriculture. To better understand the transformation of crop straw in orchard soils, we investigated the relationship between the characteristics of straw decomposition and functional diversity of associated microbial communities in a long-term peach orchard, China. Mesh bags, each containing 30 g of corn or bean straw, were buried at a soil depth of 20 cm in a 12-year-old peach orchard for 360 d (October 2011–October 2012). Three treatments were applied, i.e., fresh corn straw, fresh corn straw with nitrogen fertilizer (urea, 10.34 g/kg), and fresh bean straw. Changes in straw residual rate, straw water content and soil conditions were monitored after treatment. The functional diversity of straw-associated microbial communities was analyzed by the Biolog-Eco microplate assay. During the decomposition process, straw residual rates did not vary considerably from 10 d (30.4%–45.4%) to 360 d (19.0%–30.3%). Irrespective of nitrogen addition, corn straw decomposed faster than bean straw. Corn straw with nitrogen fertilizer yielded the highest average well color development (AWCD) values (1.11–1.67), followed by corn straw (1.14–1.68) and bean straw (1.18–1.62). Although the AWCD values did not differ significantly among the three treatments, substantial differences occurred across various time periods of the decomposition process (P<0.01). In terms of carbon source utilization, the dominant microbial groups fed mainly on saccharides. Hard-to-decompose substances gradually accumulated in the middle and late stages of straw decomposition. Of the six categories of carbon sources tested, the utilization rate of aromatics was the lowest with corn straw, whereas that of polymers was the lowest with bean straw. Among different treatments, straw residual rate was negatively correlated to soil available phosphorous, soil available potassium and soil temperature (P<0.05), but not to soil water content. In some cases (corn straw with or without nitrogen fertilizer), straw residual rate was negatively correlated to straw water content, amino acid utilization and carboxylic acid utilization, and positively correlated with microbial species richness and evenness (P<0.05). Microbial community associated with corn and bean straw decomposition in soil was respectively dominated by aromatic- and polymer-metabolizing groups during the middle and late stages of this process, which could reduce the stability of microbial community structure and decrease the rate of straw decomposition in fruit tree orchard.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Project of State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, Chinese Academy of Sciences (A314021402-1916), the Key Project of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2017YFD0200200), and the Innovative Engineering Project of Shaanxi Province, China (2016slkj-15). We thank Dr. GU Jie, Dr. SUN Wei, Dr. QIAN Xun and Mr. ZHANG Youwang from College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Northwest A&F University, China for sample testing and analysis.

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Correspondence to Jialong Lyu.

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Zhang, H., Cao, Y. & Lyu, J. Decomposition of different crop straws and variation in straw-associated microbial communities in a peach orchard, China. J. Arid Land 13, 152–164 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-021-0001-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-021-0001-9

Keywords

  • Biolog-Eco microplate
  • nitrogen fertilizer
  • microbial community
  • organic agriculture
  • straw decomposition