Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Duan N, Li L, Liang X, Fine A, Zhuang J, Radosevich M and Schaeffer SM (2022) Variation in Bacterial Community Structure Under Long-Term Fertilization, Tillage, and Cover Cropping in Continuous Cotton Production. Front. Microbiol. 13:847005. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.847005


open access


Agricultural practices alter the structure and functions of soil microbial community. However, few studies have documented the alterations of bacterial communities in soils under long-term conservation management practices for continuous crop production. In this study, we evaluated soil bacterial diversity using 16S rRNA gene sequencing and soil physical and chemical properties within 12 combinations of inorganic N fertilization, cover cropping, and tillage throughout a cotton production cycle. Soil was collected from field plots of the West Tennessee Agriculture Research and Education Center in Jackson, TN, United States. The site has been under continuous cotton production for 38 years. A total of 38,038 OTUs were detected across 171 soil samples. The dominant bacterial phyla were Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Chloroflexi, accounting for ~70% of the total bacterial community membership. Conventional tillage increased alpha diversity in soil samples collected in different stages of cotton production. The effects of inorganic N fertilization and conventional tillage on the structure of bacterial communities were significant at all four sampling dates (p < 0.01). However, cover cropping (p < 0.05) and soil moisture content (p < 0.05) only showed significant influence on the bacterial community structure after burn-down of the cover crops and before planting of cotton (May). Nitrate-N appeared to have a significant effect on the structure of bacterial communities after inorganic fertilization and at the peak of cotton growth (p < 0.01). Structural equation modeling revealed that the relative abundances of denitrifying and nitrifying bacteria were higher when conventional tillage and vetch cover crop practices were applied, respectively. Our results indicate that long-term tillage and fertilization are key factors increasing the diversity and restructuring the composition of bacterial communities, whereas cover cropping may have shorterterm effects on soil bacteria community structure. In this study, management practices might positively influence relative abundances of bacterial functional groups associated with N cycling. The bacteria functional groups may build a network for providing N and meet microbial N needs in the long term.