U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Hu J, Jin VL, Konkel JYM, Schaeffer SM, Schneider LG, DeBruyn JM. 2021. Soil health management enhances microbial nitrogen cycling capacity and activity. mSphere 6: e01237-20. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere .01237-20.




Soil microbial transformations of nitrogen (N) can be affected by soil health management practices. Here, we report in situ seasonal dynamics of the population size (gene copy abundances) and functional activity (transcript copy abundances) of five bacterial genes involved in soil N cycling (ammonia-oxidizing bacteria [AOB] amoA, nifH, nirK, nirS, and nosZ) in a long-term continuous cotton production system under different management practices (cover crops, tillage, and inorganic N fertilization). Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), a leguminous cover crop, most effectively promoted the expression of N cycle genes, which persisted after cover crop termination throughout the growing season. Moreover, we observed similarly high or even higher N cycle gene transcript abundances under vetch with no fertilizer as no cover crop with N fertilization throughout the cover crop peak and cotton growing seasons (April, May, and October). Further, both the gene and transcript abundances of amoA and nosZ were positively correlated to soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. We also found that the abundances of amoA genes and transcripts both positively correlated to field and incubated net nitrification rates. Together, our results revealed relationships between microbial functional capacity and activity and in situ soil N transformations under different agricultural seasons and soil management practices.

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