Legacy effects of fumigation on soil bacterial and fungal communities and their response to metam sodium application

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Background Soil microorganisms are integral to maintaining soil health and crop productivity, but fumigation used to suppress soilborne diseases may affect soil microbiota. Currently, little is known about the legacy effects of soil fumigation on soil microbial communities and their response to fumigation at the production scale. Here, 16S rRNA gene and internal transcribed spacer amplicon sequencing was used to characterize the bacterial and fungal communities in soils from intensively managed crop fields with and without previous exposure to metam sodium (MS) fumigation. The effect of fumigation history, soil series, and rotation crop diversity on microbial community variation was estimated and the response of the soil microbiome to MS application in an open microcosm system was documented.

            We found that previous MS fumigation reduced soil bacterial diversity but did not affect microbial richness and fungal diversity. Fumigation history, soil series, and rotation crop diversity were the main contributors to the variation in microbial β-diversity. Between fumigated and non-fumigated soils, predominant bacterial and fungal taxa were similar; however, their relative abundance varied with fumigation history. In particular, the abundance of Basidiomycete yeasts was decreased in fumigated soils. MS fumigation also altered soil bacterial and fungal co-occurrence network structure and associations. In microcosms, application of MS reduced soil microbial richness and bacterial diversity. Soil microbial β-diversity was also affected but microbial communities of the microcosm soils were always similar to that of the field soils used to establish the microcosms. MS application also induced changes in relative abundance of several predominant bacterial and fungal genera based on a soil’s previous fumigation exposure.

            The legacy effects of MS fumigation are more pronounced on soil bacterial diversity, β-diversity and networks. Repeated fumigant applications shift soil microbial compositions and may contribute to differential MS sensitivity among soil microorganisms. Following MS application, microbial richness and bacterial diversity decreases, but microbial β-diversity was similar to that of the field soils used to establish the microcosms in the short-term (< 6 weeks). The responses of soil microbiome to MS fumigation are context dependent and rely on abiotic, biotic, and agricultural management practices.
Environmental Microbiome. 2022 Dec 03;17(1):59