80 research outputs found

    Engineering soil organic matter quality: Biodiesel Co-Product (BCP) stimulates exudation of nitrogenous microbial biopolymers

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    Biodiesel Co-Product (BCP) is a complex organic material formed during the transesterification of lipids. We investigated the effect of BCP on the extracellular microbial matrix or ‘extracellular polymeric substance’ (EPS) in soil which is suspected to be a highly influential fraction of soil organic matter (SOM). It was hypothesised that more N would be transferred to EPS in soil given BCP compared to soil given glycerol. An arable soil was amended with BCP produced from either 1) waste vegetable oils or 2) pure oilseed rape oil, and compared with soil amended with 99% pure glycerol; all were provided with 15N labelled KNO3. We compared transfer of microbially assimilated 15N into the extracellular amino acid pool, and measured concomitant production of exopolysaccharide. Following incubation, the 15N enrichment of total hydrolysable amino acids (THAAs) indicated that intracellular anabolic products had incorporated the labelled N primarily as glutamine and glutamate. A greater proportion of the amino acids in EPS were found to contain 15N than those in the THAA pool, indicating that the increase in EPS was comprised of bioproducts synthesised de novo. Moreover, BCP had increased the EPS production efficiency of the soil microbial community (μg EPS per unit ATP) up to approximately double that of glycerol, and caused transfer of 21% more 15N from soil solution into EPS-amino acids. Given the suspected value of EPS in agricultural soils, the use of BCP to stimulate exudation is an interesting tool to consider in the theme of delivering sustainable intensification

    Plant-microbe networks in soil are weakened by century-long use of inorganic fertilizers.

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    Understanding the changes in plant-microbe interactions is critically important for predicting ecosystem functioning in response to human-induced environmental changes such as nitrogen (N) addition. In this study, the effects of a century-long fertilization treatment (> 150 years) on the networks between plants and soil microbial functional communities, detected by GeoChip, in grassland were determined in the Park Grass Experiment at Rothamsted Research, UK. Our results showed that plants and soil microbes have a consistent response to long-term fertilization-both richness and diversity of plants and soil microbes are significantly decreased, as well as microbial functional genes involved in soil carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycling. The network-based analyses showed that long-term fertilization decreased the complexity of networks between plant and microbial functional communities in terms of node numbers, connectivity, network density and the clustering coefficient. Similarly, within the soil microbial community, the strength of microbial associations was also weakened in response to long-term fertilization. Mantel path analysis showed that soil C and N contents were the main factors affecting the network between plants and microbes. Our results indicate that century-long fertilization weakens the plant-microbe networks, which is important in improving our understanding of grassland ecosystem functions and stability under long-term agriculture management

    Edaphic factors and plants influence denitrification in soils from a long-term arable experiment

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    Factors influencing production of greenhouse gases nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitrogen (N2) in arable soils include high nitrate, moisture and plants; we investigate how differences in the soil microbiome due to antecedent soil treatment additionally influence denitrification. Microbial communities, denitrification gene abundance and gas production in soils from tilled arable plots with contrasting fertilizer inputs (no N, mineral N, FYM) and regenerated woodland in the long-term Broadbalk field experiment were investigated. Soil was transferred to pots, kept bare or planted with wheat and after 6 weeks, transferred to sealed chambers with or without K15NO3 fertilizer for 4 days; N2O and N2 were measured daily. Concentrations of N2O were higher when fertilizer was added, lower in the presence of plants, whilst N2 increased over time and with plants. Prior soil treatment but not exposure to N-fertiliser or plants during the experiment influenced denitrification gene (nirK, nirS, nosZI, nosZII) relative abundance. Under our experimental conditions, denitrification generated mostly N2; N2O was around 2% of total gaseous N2?+?N2O. Prior long-term soil management influenced the soil microbiome and abundance of denitrification genes. The production of N2O was driven by nitrate availability and N2 generation increased in the presence of plants

    Effects of urease and nitrification inhibitors on soil N, nitrifier abundance and activity in a sandy loam soil

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    Inhibitors of urease and ammonia monooxygenase can limit the rate of conversion of urea to ammonia and ammonia to nitrate, respectively, potentially improving N fertilizer use efficiency and reducing gaseous losses. Winter wheat grown on a sandy soil in the UK was treated with urea fertilizer with the urease inhibitor N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT), the nitrification inhibitor dicyandiamide (DCD) or a combination of both. The effects on soil microbial community diversity, the abundance of genes involved in nitrification and crop yields and net N recovery were compared. The only significant effect on N-cycle genes was a transient reduction in bacterial ammonia monooxygenase abundance following DCD application. However, overall crop yields and net N recovery were significantly lower in the urea treatments compared with an equivalent application of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and significantly less for urea with DCD than the other urea treatments

    Is there sufficient Ensifer and Rhizobium species diversity in UK farmland soils to support red clover (Trifolium pratense), white clover (T. repens), lucerne (Medicago sativa) and black medic (M. lupulina)?

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    Rhizobia play important roles in agriculture owing to their ability to fix nitrogen through a symbiosis with legumes. The specificity of rhizobia-legume associations means that underused legume species may depend on seed inoculation with their rhizobial partners. For black medic (Medicago lupulina) and lucerne (Medicago sativa) little is known about the natural prevalence of their rhizobial partner Ensifer meliloti in UK soils, so that the need for inoculating them is unclear. We analysed the site-dependence of rhizobial seed inoculation effects on the subsequent ability of rhizobial communities to form symbioses with four legume species (Medicago lupulina, M. sativa, Trifolium repens and T. pratense). At ten organic farms across the UK, a species-diverse legume based mixture (LBM) which included these four species was grown. The LBM seed was inoculated with a mix of commercial inocula specific for clover and lucerne. At each site, soil from the LBM treatment was compared to the soil sampled prior to the sowing of the LBM (the control). From each site and each of the two treatments, a suspension of soils was applied to seedlings of the four legume species and grown in axenic conditions for six weeks. Root nodules were counted and their rhizobia isolated. PCR and sequencing of a fragment of the gyrB gene from rhizobial isolates allowed identification of strains. The number of nodules on each of the four legume species was significantly increased when inoculated with soil from the LBM treatment compared to the control. Both the proportion of plants forming nodules and the number of nodules formed varied significantly by site, with sites significantly affecting the Medicago species but not the Trifolium species. These differences in nodulation were broadly reflected in plant biomass where site and treatment interacted; at some sites there was a significant advantage from inoculation with the commercial inoculum but not at others. In particular, this study has demonstrated the commercial merit of inoculation of lucerne with compatible rhizobia

    The pH optimum of soil exoenzymes adapt to long term changes in soil pH

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    Soil exoenzymes released by microorganisms break down organic matter and are crucial in regulating C, N and P cycling. Soil pH is known to influence enzyme activity, and is also a strong driver of microbial community composition; but little is known about how alterations in soil pH affect enzymatic activity and how this is mediated by microbial communities. To assess long term enzymatic adaptation to soil pH, we conducted enzyme assays at buffered pH levels on two historically managed soils maintained at either pH 5 or 7 from the Rothamsted Park Grass Long-term experiment. The pH optima for a range of exoenzymes involved in C, N, P cycling, differed between the two soils, the direction of the shift being toward the source soil pH, indicating the production of pH adapted isoenzymes by the soil microbial community. Soil bacterial and fungal communities determined by amplicon sequencing were clearly distinct between pH 5 and soil pH 7 soils, possibly explaining differences in enzymatic responses. Furthermore, ?-glucosidase gene sequences extracted from metagenomes revealed an increased abundance of Acidobacterial producers in the pH 5 soils, and Actinobacteria in pH 7 soils. Our findings demonstrate that the pH optimum of soil exoenzymes adapt to long term changes in soil pH, the direction being dependent on the soil pH shift; and we provide further evidence that changes in functional microbial communities may underpin this phenomena, though new research is now needed to directly link change in enzyme activity optima with microbial communities. More generally, our new findings have large implications for modelling the efficiency of different microbial enzymatic processes under changing environmental conditions

    Ca. Nitrososphaera and Bradyrhizobium are inversely correlated and related to agricultural practices in long-term field experiments

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    Agricultural land management, such as fertilization, liming, and tillage affects soil properties, including pH, organic matter content, nitrification rates, and the microbial community. Three different study sites were used to identify microorganisms that correlate with agricultural land use and to determine which factors regulate the relative abundance of the microbial signatures of the agricultural land-use. The three sites included in this study are the Broadbalk Experiment at Rothamsted Research, UK, the Everglades Agricultural Area, Florida, USA, and the Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan, USA. The effects of agricultural management on the abundance and diversity of bacteria and archaea were determined using high throughput, barcoded 16S rRNA sequencing. In addition, the relative abundance of these organisms was correlated with soil features. Two groups of microorganisms involved in nitrogen cycle were highly correlated with land use at all three sites. The ammonia oxidizing-archaea, dominated by Ca. Nitrososphaera, were positively correlated with agriculture while a ubiquitous group of soil bacteria closely related to the diazotrophic symbiont, Bradyrhizobium, was negatively correlated with agricultural management. Analysis of successional plots showed that the abundance of ammonia oxidizing-archaea declined and the abundance of bradyrhizobia increased with time away from agriculture. This observation suggests that the effect of agriculture on the relative abundance of these genera is reversible. Soil pH and NH(3) concentrations were positively correlated with archaeal abundance but negatively correlated with the abundance of Bradyrhizobium. The high correlations of Ca. Nitrososphaera and Bradyrhizobium abundances with agricultural management at three long-term experiments with different edaphoclimatic conditions allowed us to suggest these two genera as signature microorganisms for agricultural land use

    The Pochonia chlamydosporia Serine Protease Gene vcp1 Is Subject to Regulation by Carbon, Nitrogen and pH: Implications for Nematode Biocontrol

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    The alkaline serine protease VCP1 of the fungus Pochonia chlamydosporia belongs to a family of subtilisin-like enzymes that are involved in infection of nematode and insect hosts. It is involved early in the infection process, removing the outer proteinaceous vitelline membrane of nematode eggs. Little is known about the regulation of this gene, even though an understanding of how nutrients and other factors affect its expression is critical for ensuring its efficacy as a biocontrol agent. This paper provides new information on the regulation of vcp1 expression. Sequence analysis of the upstream regulatory region of this gene in 30 isolates revealed that it was highly conserved and contained sequence motifs characteristic of genes that are subject to carbon, nitrogen and pH-regulation. Expression studies, monitoring enzyme activity and mRNA, confirmed that these factors affect VCP1 production. As expected, glucose reduced VCP1 expression and for a few hours so did ammonium chloride. Surprisingly, however, by 24 h VCP1 levels were increased in the presence of ammonium chloride for most isolates. Ambient pH also regulated VCP1 expression, with most isolates producing more VCP1 under alkaline conditions. There were some differences in the response of one isolate with a distinctive upstream sequence including a variant regulatory-motif profile. Cryo-scanning electron microscopy studies indicated that the presence of nematode eggs stimulates VCP1 production by P. chlamydosporia, but only where the two are in close contact. Overall, the results indicate that readily-metabolisable carbon sources and unfavourable pH in the rhizosphere/egg-mass environment may compromise nematode parasitism by P. chlamydosporia. However, contrary to previous indications using other nematophagous and entomopathogenic fungi, ammonium nitrate (e.g. from fertilizers) may enhance biocontrol potential in some circumstances
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