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Effect Of Organic Mulches On Soil Bacterial Communities One Year After Application

Yoo-Jeong Yang, R. Dungan, A. M. Ibekwe, César Valenzuela-Solano, D. Crohn, D. Crowley
Published 2003 · Biology

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The application of organic mulches as a soil cover is effective in improving the quality of soil. However, very little information is available on the effect of mulches on the soil microbial community. In this study, we investigated the effect of various organic mulches on soil dehydrogenase activity (DHA) and microbial community structures in the top 1 cm and 5 cm below the soil surface 1 year after application of the mulches. DHA was stimulated at both depths in plots mulched with grass clippings (GC), but was not significantly different from the control for the other mulch treatments. Fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of polymerase chain reaction-amplified 16S rDNA fragments were used to assess changes in the soil microbial community structure. Cluster analysis and principle component analysis of FAME profiles showed that only soil mulched with pine chips distinctively clustered from the other treatments. At the soil surface, bacterial DGGE profiles revealed that distinct shifts in several bacterial populations occurred in soils mulched with GC and eucalyptus yardwaste (EY), while DGGE profiles from soil at the 5 cm depth revealed no distinct changes. Changes in bacterial diversity at the soil surface under different mulches were calculated based on the number of bands in the DGGE profile using the Shannon-Weaver index of diversity ( H). Compared to the control ( H =0.9), the GC- and EY-treated soils showed slightly increased bacterial diversity, with an H of 1.1 and 1.0, respectively. These results indicate that the long-term effect of organic mulches on the soil microbial activity and community structure is highly dependent upon the type of mulch and is mostly exerted in the top few centimeters of the soil profile.
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