Cover crop species have contrasting influence upon soil structural genesis and microbial community phenotype

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Bacq-Labreuil, A., Crawford, J. W., Mooney, S., Neal, A. L. and Ritz, K. 2019. Cover crop species have contrasting influence upon soil structural genesis and microbial community phenotype. Scientific Reports. 9 (7473).

AuthorsBacq-Labreuil, A., Crawford, J. W., Mooney, S., Neal, A. L. and Ritz, K.
Abstract

Cover crops (plants grown in an agricultural rotation between cash crops) can significantly improve soil quality via sequestering carbon, retaining nutrients, decreasing soil erosion, and maintaining belowground biodiversity. However, little is known about the effects of such plants upon soil structure. The aim of the study was to assess the impact of four species typically used as cover crops and which have contrasting root architecture (viz. clover, black oat, phacelia, tillage radish) on soil structural genesis and the associated modification of microbial community structure in a clay soil. The four plant species were grown in a replicated pot experiment with sieved soil (<2 mm), with unplanted soil as control for 8 weeks. X-ray Computed Tomography was used to quantify the formation of pore networks in 3D and phospholipid fatty acid analysis was performed to characterise the microbial community phenotype. Black oats developed a greater soil-pore connectivity than the other species throughout the growth period, whereas phacelia decreased both the porosity and pore-connectivity. The microbial community phenotype under phacelia was notably different from the other species, with a greater proportion of fungal markers. Thus, different plant species have differential effects upon soil structural genesis and microbial community phenotype, which provides evidence that certain species may be more suitable as cover crops in terms of soil structural conditioning depending upon specific contexts.

Year of Publication2019
JournalScientific Reports
Journal citation9 (7473)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1038/s41598-019-43937-6
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 1 (WP1) - Optimising nutrient flows and pools in the soil-plant-biota system
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online16 May 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted23 Apr 2019
PublisherNature Publishing Group
ISSN2045-2322

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