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Direct seeding mulch-based cropping increases both the activity and the abundance of denitrifier communities in a tropical soil

Baudoin, Ezékiel, Philippot, Laurent, Chèneby, Dominique, Chapuis-Lardy, Lydie, Fromin, Nathalie, Bru, David, Rabary, Bodovololona, Brauman, Alain
Soil biology & biochemistry 2009 v.41 no.8 pp. 1703-1709
tropical soils, agricultural soils, microbial activity, denitrifying microorganisms, soil microorganisms, mulching, cropping systems, conventional tillage, nitrogen, greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide, gas emissions, soybeans, rice, Oryza sativa, Glycine max, crop rotation, direct seeding, highlands, crop residues, mineral fertilizers, organic fertilizers, population size, enzyme activity, polymerase chain reaction, nitrogen content, microbial genetics, genes, Madagascar
This study evaluated the impact of direct seeding mulch-based cropping (DMC), as an alternative to conventional tilling (CT), on a functional community involved in N cycling and emission of greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). The study was carried out for annual soybean/rice crop rotation in the Highlands of Madagascar. The differences between the two soil management strategies (direct seeding with mulched crop residues versus tillage without incorporation of crop residues) were studied along a fertilization gradient (no fertilizer, organic fertilizer, organic plus mineral fertilizers). The activity and size of the denitrifier community were determined by denitrification enzyme activity assays and by real-time PCR quantification of the denitrification genes. Denitrification activity and total C and N content in the soil were significantly increased by DMC both years, whereas the fertilization regime and sampling year (crop and mulch types, climatic conditions) had very little effect. Similar results were also observed for denitrification gene densities. Denitrification enzyme activity was more closely correlated with C content than with N content in the soil and denitrification gene densities. Principal component analysis confirmed that soil management had the strongest impact on the soil denitrifier community and total C and N content for both years and further indicated that changes in microbial and chemical soil parameters induced by the use of fertilizer were favored in DMC plots. Overall, the alternative DMC system had a significant positive effect on denitrifier densities and potential activities, which was not altered by crop rotation and the level of fertilization. These data also suggest that in these clayey soils, the DMC system simultaneously increased the size of the soil N pool and accelerated the N cycle, by stimulating the denitrifier community. Complementary investigations should further determine in greater detail the influence of DMC on in situ N-fluxes caused by denitrification.