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Ecology - Microbiology

Bacterial Indicator of Agricultural Management for Soil under No-Till Crop Production
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Author: Eva L. M. Figuerola et al.

by Eva L. M. Figuerola, Leandro D. Guerrero, Silvina M. Rosa, Leandro Simonetti, Matías E. Duval, Juan A. Galantini, José C. Bedano, Luis G. Wall, Leonardo Erijman

The rise in the world demand for food poses a challenge to our ability to sustain soil fertility and sustainability. The increasing use of no-till agriculture, adopted in many areas of the world as an alternative to conventional farming, may contribute to reduce the erosion of soils and the increase in the soil carbon pool. However, the advantages of no-till agriculture are jeopardized when its use is linked to the expansion of crop monoculture. The aim of this study was to survey bacterial communities to find indicators of soil quality related to contrasting agriculture management in soils under no-till farming. Four sites in production agriculture, with different soil properties, situated across a west-east transect in the most productive region in the Argentinean pampas, were taken as the basis for replication. Working definitions of Good no-till Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Poor no-till Agricultural Practices (PAP) were adopted for two distinct scenarios in terms of crop rotation, fertilization, agrochemicals use and pest control. Non-cultivated soils nearby the agricultural sites were taken as additional control treatments. Tag-encoded pyrosequencing was used to deeply sample the 16S rRNA gene from bacteria residing in soils corresponding to the three treatments at the four locations. Although bacterial communities as a whole appeared to be structured chiefly by a marked biogeographic provincialism, the distribution of a few taxa was shaped as well by environmental conditions related to agricultural management practices. A statistically supported approach was used to define candidates for management-indicator organisms, subsequently validated using quantitative PCR. We suggest that the ratio between the normalized abundance of a selected group of bacteria within the GP1 group of the phylum Acidobacteria and the genus Rubellimicrobium of the Alphaproteobacteria may serve as a potential management-indicator to discriminate between sustainable vs. non-sustainable agricultural practices in the Pampa region.