Changes in N-Transforming archaea and bacteria in soil during the establishment of bioenergy crops

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Widespread adaptation of biomass production for bioenergy may influence important biogeochemical functions in the landscape, which are mainly carried out by soil microbes. Here we explore the impact of four potential bioenergy feedstock crops (maize, switchgrass, Miscanthus X giganteus, and mixed tallgrass prairie) on nitrogen cycling microorganisms in the soil by monitoring the changes in the quantity (real-time PCR) and diversity (barcoded pyrosequencing) of key functional genes (nifH, bacterial/archaeal amoA and nosZ) and 16S rRNA genes over two years after bioenergy crop establishment. The quantities of these N-cycling genes were relatively stable in all four crops, except maize (the only fertilized crop), in which the population size of AOB doubled in less than 3 months. The nitrification rate was significantly correlated with the quantity of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) not bacteria (AOB), indicating that archaea were the major ammonia oxidizers. Deep sequencing revealed high diversity of nifH, archaeal amoA, bacterial amoA, nosZ and 16S rRNA genes, with 229, 309, 330, 331 and 8989 OTUs observed, respectively. Rarefaction analysis revealed the diversity of archaeal amoA in maize markedly decreased in the second year. Ordination analysis of T-RFLP and pyrosequencing results showed that the N-transforming microbial community structures in the soil under these crops gradually differentiated. Thus far, our two-year study has shown that specific N-transforming microbial communities develop in the soil in response to planting different bioenergy crops, and each functional group responded in a different way. Our results also suggest that cultivation of maize with N-fertilization increases the abundance of AOB and denitrifiers, reduces the diversity of AOA, and results in significant changes in the structure of denitrification community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere24750
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 14 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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