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https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-2
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-2
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 10 Feb 2020

Submitted as: original research article | 10 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

Multi-cooperation of soil biota in the plough layer is the key for conservation tillage to improve N availability and crop yield

Shixiu Zhang1, Liang Chang1, Neil B. McLaughlin2, Shuyan Cui3,4, Haitao Wu1, Donghui Wu1, Wenju Liang3, and Aizhen Liang1 Shixiu Zhang et al.
  • 1Key Laboratory of Mollisols Agroecology, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130012, China
  • 2Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, K1A 0C6, Canada
  • 3Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Science, Shenyang 110016, China
  • 4Liaoning Normal University, Liaoning 110036, China

Abstract. Conservation tillage facilitates constructing a more complex and heterogeneous distribution of soil organisms in the plough layer relative to conventional tillage (CT), which results in an improvement in crop yield and nitrogen (N) uptake. However, knowledge of how soil biota interact to couple mineralization of N and promote plant growth is still limited. The contribution of soil biota (trophic groups and energy pathways) to soil N mineralization and the relationship between energy pathways and grain yield during soybean (Glycine max Merr.) growing season were investigated at 0–5 and 5–15 cm depths under a long-term tillage trial. The trial was initiated in 2001 on a Black soil in Northeastern China and included no tillage (NT), ridge tillage (RT) and CT. A higher contribution of most trophic groups to soil N mineralization throughout the whole plough layer was observed in RT and NT than in CT, and these differences were more pronounced for higher trophic groups than for lower ones. Furthermore, the responses of trophic groups to tillage practices were also transferred into the energy pathways. Bacterial and predator-prey pathways released more mineral N in RT and NT than in CT. Multiple regression models revealed that soybean yield was significantly related to the mineralized N in RT and NT through root, fungal and prey-predator pathways in 0–5 cm and bacterial pathway in 5–15 cm. Additionally, the relative contribution of the mineralized N by different pathways to soybean yield was different in 0–5 cm and decreased in the order of root pathway (0.487) > fungal pathway (0.389) > predator-prey pathway (0.318). Although soil trophic groups coupled with N mineralization and soybean yield varied with depth in RT and NT soils, a stable supply of mineral N from soil to plant could be maintained in the plough layer by the cooperation of predator-prey pathway horizontally with bacterial and plant pathways and vertically with fungal and bacterial pathways. This favorable effect of multi-cooperation of soil biota on coupling N mineralization and plant growth in the plough layer is a cornerstone of conservation tillage benefits in temperate areas of the world.

Shixiu Zhang et al.

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Short summary
Conservation tillage facilitates constructing a more heterogeneous distribution of soil organisms along the plough layer relative to conventional tillage (CT). The contribution of soil biota to soil N mineralization and their relationships with soybean yield were investigated under contrasting tillage practices. A stable supply of mineral N from soil to plant could be maintained by the either horizontal or vertical cooperation of soil biota in the plough layers.
Conservation tillage facilitates constructing a more heterogeneous distribution of soil...
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