Jesus, E. C., C. Liang, F. J. Quensen, E. Susilawati, R. D. Jackson, T. C. Balser, and J. M. Tiedje. 2016. Influence of corn, switchgrass, and prairie cropping systems on soil microbial communities in the upper Midwest of the United States. Global Change Biology Bioenergy 8:481-494.

Citable PDF link: https://lter.kbs.msu.edu/pub/3481

Because soil microbes drive many of the processes underpinning ecosystem services provided by soils, understanding how cropping systems affect soil microbial communities is important for productive and sustainable management. We characterized and compared soil microbial communities under restored prairie and three potential cellulosic biomass crops (corn, switchgrass, and mixed prairie grasses) in two spatial experimental designs – side-by-side plots where plant communities were in their second year since establishment (i.e., intensive sites) and regionally distributed fields where plant communities had been in place for at least 10 years (i.e., extensive sites). We assessed microbial community structure and composition using lipid analysis, pyrosequencing of rRNA genes (targeting fungi, bacteria, archaea, and lower eukaryotes), and targeted metagenomics of nifH genes. For the more recently established intensive sites, soil type was more important than plant community in determining microbial community structure, while plant community was the more important driver of soil microbial communities for the older extensive sites where microbial communities under corn were clearly differentiated from those under switchgrass and restored prairie. Bacterial and fungal biomasses, especially biomass of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, were higher under perennial grasses and restored prairie, suggesting a more active carbon pool and greater microbial processing potential, which should be beneficial for plant acquisition and ecosystem retention of carbon, water, and nutrients.

DOI: 10.1111/gcbb.12289

Associated Treatment Areas:

GLBRC Extensive Sites G5 G1 G7 G10

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