Edaphic correlates of feedstock-associated diazotroph communities

Chinmay Soman, Daniel P. Keymer, Angela D. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Miscanthus × giganteus and Panicum virgatum are potential promising bioenergy feedstock crops suitable for the temperate zone. The energy efficiency and sustainability of bioenergy production could be improved by reducing their fertilizer inputs – particularly energy intensive nitrogen fertilizers. Miscanthus is known to benefit from nitrogen fixation by associative diazotrophs. However, because the effects of edaphic-, management-, and plant-related factors on feedstock-associated diazotroph communities have not yet been characterized, it is not currently possible to optimize the nitrogen contribution to feedstock crops from associated diazotroph communities. To address this critical knowledge gap, we characterized the bacterial and diazotroph communities in the rhizosphere and endophytic compartments of both species at eight research sites across Illinois. We also quantified the nifH gene abundance in the rhizosphere soil as well as a range of soil chemistry parameters at these sites. Multivariate statistical analyses revealed that diazotroph and bacterial communities in the rhizosphere varied primarily among sites, with very small differences between host species. Conversely, diazotroph and bacterial communities in the endophytic compartments differed significantly between plant species, but did not vary substantially among sites. Finally, nifH gene abundance in the rhizospheres of both species varied substantially from site to site and was positively correlated with soil iron concentration as well as soil ammonium concentration, and negatively correlated with abundance of other soil nutrients including calcium, total nitrogen, and nitrates. These results indicate the potential edaphic drivers of associative diazotroph communities in feedstock rhizospheres and suggest that manipulating bioavailable iron content in the soil is a potential direction for investigating the optimization of these communities to improve their nitrogen contribution to crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-352
Number of pages10
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • diazotrophs
  • endophytic bacteria
  • miscanthus
  • nifH gene
  • rhizosphere microbiome
  • soil chemistry
  • switchgrass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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