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Role of Plant Residues in Determining Temporal Patterns of the Activity, Size, and Structure of Nitrate Reducer Communities in Soil

Chèneby, D., Bru, D., Pascault, N., Maron, P.A., Ranjard, L., Philippot, L.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2010 v.76 no.21 pp. 7136-7143
alfalfa, biogeochemical cycles, carbon, field experimentation, genes, microbial activity, microbial communities, nitrate reduction, nitrates, nitrogen, nutrients, plant residues, polymerase chain reaction, restriction fragment length polymorphism, soil, soil ecology, soil microorganisms, soil organic matter, temperature, wheat
The incorporation of plant residues into soil not only represents an opportunity to limit soil organic matter depletion resulting from cultivation but also provides a valuable source of nutrients such as nitrogen. However, the consequences of plant residue addition on soil microbial communities involved in biochemical cycles other than the carbon cycle are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the responses of one N-cycling microbial community, the nitrate reducers, to wheat, rape, and alfalfa residues for 11 months after incorporation into soil in a field experiment. A 20- to 27-fold increase in potential nitrate reduction activity was observed for residue-amended plots compared to the nonamended plots during the first week. This stimulating effect of residues on the activity of the nitrate-reducing community rapidly decreased but remained significant over 11 months. During this period, our results suggest that the potential nitrate reduction activity was regulated by both carbon availability and temperature. The presence of residues also had a significant effect on the abundance of nitrate reducers estimated by quantitative PCR of the narG and napA genes, encoding the membrane-bound and periplasmic nitrate reductases, respectively. In contrast, the incorporation of the plant residues into soil had little impact on the structure of the narG and napA nitrate-reducing community determined by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) fingerprinting. Overall, our results revealed that the addition of plant residues can lead to important long-term changes in the activity and size of a microbial community involved in N cycling but with limited effects of the type of plant residue itself.