Exploring the Synergistic Impacts of Cover Crops and Fertilization on Soil Microbial Metabolic Diversity in Dryland Soybean Production Systems Using Biolog EcoPlates

Abstract

The metabolic diversity of soil microbiota embodies diverse functional capabilities that support ecosystem resilience, driving essential biogeochemical processes and facilitating the optimization of sustainable agricultural systems. Integrating cover crops into agricultural systems cultivates a diverse array of metabolic activities among soil microbes, synergistically enhancing ecosystem services and bolstering soil health for sustainable and productive farming practices. In an effort to gain deeper insights and expand our knowledge, we conducted a study examining the effects of cover crops and fertilizer sources, thereby shedding light on their combined impacts on the metabolic activity dynamics of soil microbial communities. In this investigation, we employed a split-plot design with two factors: (a) cover crop with three solo cover crop species—Cereal rye (Secale cereale), wheat (Triticum aestivum), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), and one mixture of mustard (Brassica rapa) and cereal rye (Secale cereale) (CC-mix), (b) Fertilizer source includes poultry litter, chemical fertilizer, and no-fertilizer treatments. We assessed the metabolic potential of soil microbiota by using carbon substrates utilizing Biolog EcoPlates. The findings revealed that the plots with CC-mix treatment exhibited greater metabolic diversity compared to the other treatments, while among the fertilizer sources, poultry litter demonstrated higher metabolic activity. Furthermore, both treatment factors predominantly metabolized carbohydrates and polymers compared to other carbon substrate categories. The principal component analysis accounted for 46.4% of the variance, collectively represented by PC1 and PC2, emphasizing the substantial contributions of carbohydrates, amino acids, and carboxylic acids to the observed metabolic diversity. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed that pH had positively correlated with microbial functional diversity, whereas total carbon (TC), total nitrogen (TN), and water-stable aggregates (WSA) showed a negative correlation. In conclusion, cover cropping and type of fertilizer source had a notable impact on soil microbial functional diversity, with the cover crop mixture exhibiting a more pronounced influence than the individual cover crop treatments.

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Citation

Chinthalapudi, D.P.M.; Pokhrel, S.; Kingery, W.L.; Shankle, M.W.; Ganapathi Shanmugam, S. Exploring the Synergistic Impacts of Cover Crops and Fertilization on Soil Microbial Metabolic Diversity in Dryland Soybean Production Systems Using Biolog EcoPlates. Appl. Biosci. 2023, 2, 328-346.