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Title: The Effects of Soil Depth on the Structure of Microbial Communities in Agricultural Soils in Iowa (United States)
ABSTRACT This study investigated the differences in microbial community abundance, composition, and diversity throughout the depth profiles in soils collected from corn and soybean fields in Iowa (United States) using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. The results revealed decreased richness and diversity in microbial communities at increasing soil depth. Soil microbial community composition differed due to crop type only in the top 60 cm and due to location only in the top 90 cm. While the relative abundance of most phyla decreased in deep soils, the relative abundance of the phylum Proteobacteria increased and dominated agricultural soils below the depth of 90 cm. Although soil depth was the most important factor shaping microbial communities, edaphic factors, including soil organic matter, soil bulk density, and the length of time that deep soils were saturated with water, were all significant factors explaining the variation in soil microbial community composition. Soil organic matter showed the highest correlation with the exponential decrease in bacterial abundance with depth. A greater understanding of how soil depth influences the diversity and composition of soil microbial communities is vital for guiding sampling approaches in agricultural soils where plant roots extend beyond the upper soil profile. In the long term, a greater knowledge more » of the influence of depth on microbial communities should contribute to new strategies that enhance the sustainability of soil, which is a precious resource for food security. IMPORTANCE Determining how microbial properties change across different soils and within the soil depth profile will be potentially beneficial to understanding the long-term processes that are involved in the health of agricultural ecosystems. Most literature on soil microbes has been restricted to the easily accessible surface soils. However, deep soils are important in soil formation, carbon sequestration, and providing nutrients and water for plants. In the most productive agricultural systems in the United States where soybean and corn are grown, crop plant roots extend into the deeper regions of soils (>100 cm), but little is known about the taxonomic diversity or the factors that shape deep-soil microbial communities. The findings reported here highlight the importance of soil depth in shaping microbial communities, provide new information about edaphic factors that influence the deep-soil communities, and reveal more detailed information on taxa that exist in deep agricultural soils. « less
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Semrau, Jeremy D.
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Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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