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Title: Soil microbial legacy drives crop diversity advantage: Linking ecological plant–soil feedback with agricultural intercropping
Abstract

Although the importance of the soil microbiome in mediating plant community structures and functions has been increasingly emphasized in ecological studies, the biological processes driving crop diversity overyielding remain unexplained in agriculture. Based on the plant–soil feedback (PSF) theory and method, we quantified to what extent and how soil microbes contributed to intercropping overyielding.

Soils were collected as inocula and sequenced from a unique 10‐year field experiment, consisting of monoculture, intercropping and rotation planted with wheat (Triticum aestivum), maize (Zea mays)or faba bean (Vicia faba). A PSF greenhouse study was conducted to test microbial effects on three crops' growth in monoculture or intercropping.

In wheat & faba bean (W&F) and maize & faba bean (M&F) systems, soil microbes drove intercropping overyielding compared to monoculture, with 28%–51% of the overyielding contributed by microbial legacies. The overyielding effects resulted from negative PSFs in both systems, as crops, in particular faba bean grew better in soils conditioned by other crops than itself. Moreover, faba bean grew better in soils from intercropping or rotation than from the average of monocultures, indicating a strong positive legacy effect of multispecies cropping systems. However, with positive PSF and negative legacy benefit effect of intercropping/rotation, we did not observe significant overyielding in the W&M system.

With more bacterial and fungal dissimilarities by metabarcoding in heterospecific than its own soil, the better it improved faba bean growth. More detailed analysis showed faba bean monoculture soil accumulated more putative pathogens with higherFusariumrelative abundance and moreFusarium oxysporumgene copies by qPCR, while in heterospecific soils, there were less pathogenic effects when cereals were engaged. Further analysis in maize/faba bean intercropping also showed an increase of rhizobia relative abundance.

Synthesis and applications. Our results demonstrate a soil microbiome‐mediated advantage in intercropping through suppression of the negative PSF of pathogens and increasing beneficial microbes. As microbial mediation of overyielding is context‐dependent, we conclude that the dynamics of both beneficial and pathogenic microbes should be considered in designing cropping systems for sustainable agriculture, particularly including combinations of legumes and cereals.

 
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Award ID(s):
1738041 1656006
NSF-PAR ID:
10449127
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume:
58
Issue:
3
ISSN:
0021-8901
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 496-506
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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Spreadsheet: annual precip_drainage Description: Precipitation measured from nearby Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Weather station, over 2009-2016 study period. Data shown in Figure 1; original data source for precipitation (https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/datatables/7). Drainage estimated from SALUS crop model. Note that drainage is percolation out of the root zone (0-125 cm). Annual precipitation and drainage values shown here are calculated for growing and non-growing crop periods. Variate    Description year    year of the observation crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” precip_G    precipitation during growing period (milliMeter) precip_NG    precipitation during non-growing period (milliMeter) drainage_G    drainage during growing period (milliMeter) drainage_NG    drainage during non-growing period (milliMeter)      2. Spreadsheet: biomass_corn, perennial grasses Description: Maximum aboveground biomass measurements from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass and restored prairie plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Data shown in Figure 2.   Variate    Description year    year of the observation date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 station    stations (S1, S2 and S3) of samplings within the plot. For more details, refer to link (https://data.sustainability.glbrc.org/protocols/156) species    plant species that are rooted within the quadrat during the time of maximum biomass harvest. See protocol for more information, refer to link (http://lter.kbs.msu.edu/datatables/36) For maize biomass, grain and whole biomass reported in the paper (weed biomass or surface litter are excluded). Surface litter biomass not included in any crops; weed biomass not included in switchgrass and miscanthus, but included in grass mixture and prairie. fraction    Fraction of biomass biomass_plot    biomass per plot on dry-weight basis (Grams_Per_SquareMeter) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying column biomass per plot with 0.01 3. Spreadsheet: biomass_poplar Description: Maximum aboveground biomass measurements from poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Data shown in Figure 2. Note that poplar biomass was estimated from crop growth curves until the poplar was harvested in the winter of 2013-14. Variate    Description year    year of the observation method    methods of poplar biomass sampling date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 diameter_at_ground    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at the ground diameter_at_15cm    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at 15 cm height biomass_tree    biomass per plot (Grams_Per_Tree) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying biomass per tree with 0.01 4. Spreadsheet: annual N leaching_vol-wtd conc Description: Annual leaching rate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) and volume-weighted mean N concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) of nitrate (no3) and dissolved organic nitrogen (don) in the leachate samples collected from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2016. 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