One-time Nitrogen Fertilization Shifts Switchgrass Soil Microbiomes Within a Context of Larger Spatial and Temporal Variation


Huaihai Chen, Zamin Yang, Dan Yip, Reese H. Morris, Steven J. Lebreux, Melissa A. Cregger, Dawn M. Klingeman, Dafeng Hui, Robert L. Hettich, Steven Willhelm, Gangsheng Wang, Frank E. Löffler, Christopher W. Schadt


Soil microbiome responses to short-term nitrogen (N) inputs remain uncertain when compared with previous research that has focused on long-term fertilization responses. Here, we examined soil bacterial/archaeal and fungal communities pre- and post-N fertilization in an 8 year-old switchgrass field, in which twenty-four plots received N fertilization at three levels (0, 100, and 200 kg N ha⁻¹ as NH4NO3) for the first time since planting. Soils were collected at two depths, 0–5 and 5–15 cm, for DNA extraction and amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA genes and ITS regions for assessment of microbial community composition. Baseline assessments prior to fertilization revealed no significant pre-existing divergence in either bacterial/archaeal or fungal communities across plots. The one-time N fertilizations increased switchgrass yields and tissue N content, and the added N was nearly completely removed from the soil of fertilized plots by the end of the growing season. Both bacterial/archaeal and fungal communities showed large spatial (by depth) and temporal variation (by season) within each plot, accounting for 17 and 12–22% of the variation as calculated from the Sq. root of PERMANOVA tests for bacterial/archaeal and fungal community composition, respectively. While N fertilization effects accounted for only ~4% of overall variation, some specific microbial groups, including the bacterial genus Pseudonocardia and the fungal genus Archaeorhizomyces, were notably repressed by fertilization at 200 kg N ha⁻¹. Bacterial groups varied with both depth in the soil profile and time of sampling, while temporal variability shaped the fungal community more significantly than vertical heterogeneity in the soil. These results suggest that short-term effects of N fertilization are significant but subtle, and other sources of variation will need to be carefully accounted for study designs including multiple intra-annual sampling dates, rather than one-time “snapshot” analyses that are common in the literature. Continued analyses of these trends over time with fertilization and management are needed to understand how these effects may persist or change over time.

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Chen HH, Yang ZK, Yip D, Morris RH, Lebreux SJ, Cregger MA, Klingeman DM, Hui DF, Hettich RL, Wilhelm SW, Wang GS, Loffler FE, Schadt CW. 2019. One-time nitrogen fertilization shifts switchgrass soil microbiomes within a context of larger spatial and temporal variation. PLoS ONE 14.