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Characterization of soil microbial communities under different potato cropping systems by microbial population dynamics, substrate utilization, and fatty acid profiles

Larkin, Robert P.
Soil biology & biochemistry 2003 v.35 no.11 pp. 1451-1466
Pseudomonas, amides, amines, amino acids, bacteria, barley, biomarkers, canola, carbohydrates, carbon, community structure, crop rotation, crops, culture media, disease control, fatty acid composition, fatty acid methyl esters, fluorescein, fungi, green beans, hydrolysis, microbial activity, microbial communities, millets, monounsaturated fatty acids, plate count, population dynamics, potatoes, saturated fatty acids, soil, soil analysis, soil ecology, soil microorganisms, soybeans, sweetcorn, Maine
The effects of 11 different 2- and 3-yr potato crop rotations on soil microbial communities were characterized over three field seasons using several techniques. Assessments included microbial populations determined by soil dilution plate counts on various general and selective culture media, microbial activity by fluorescein diacetate (FDA) hydrolysis, single carbon source substrate utilization (SU) profiles, and fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles. Potato rotation crops evaluated in research plots at Newport, ME, included barley/clover, canola, green bean, millet, soybean, sweet corn, and a continuous potato control. Soil populations of culturable bacteria and overall microbial activity tended to be highest following barley, canola, and sweet corn rotations, and lowest with continuous potato. Differences among rotations were less apparent during the potato phase of the rotations. Populations of actinomycetes and fluorescent pseudomonads tended to be greater in barley rotations than in most other rotations. SU profiles derived from BIOLOG GN2 plates indicated that certain rotations, including barley, canola, and sweet corn tended to have higher overall microbial activity, and barley and sweet corn rotations averaged higher substrate richness and diversity. Soybean and potato rotations tended to have lower substrate richness and diversity. Principal component analyses of SU data revealed differences among rotation soil communities in their utilization of individual carbon sources and substrate guilds, including carbohydrates, carboxylic acids, amines/amides, and amino acids. Analyses of soil FAME profiles demonstrated distinct differences among all the rotation soils in their relative composition of fatty acids, indicating differences in their microbial community structure. Fatty acids most responsible for differentiation among rotation soils included 16:1 ω5c, 16:1 ω7c, 18:2 ω6c, 18:1 ω9c, 12:0, and 13:0 anteiso, with 16:1 ω5c being the single greatest determinant. Overall, monounsaturated fatty acids, particularly 16:1 ω5c, were most prevalent in sweet corn rotations and polyunsaturates were highest in barley and millet rotations. Straight chain saturated fatty acids comprised the greatest proportion of fatty acids in soils under continuous potato. FAME biomarkers for microorganism groups indicated barley and millet rotations had the highest ratio of fungi to bacteria, and soybean and continuous potato had the lowest ratio. This research has demonstrated that different crop rotations have distinctive effects on soil microbial communities that are detectable using a variety of techniques. Further studies will identify more specific changes associated with particular rotations and relate these changes to potential effects on disease management, crop health, and crop productivity.