Molecular ecology

Long-term balanced fertilization increases the soil microbial functional diversity in a phosphorus-limited paddy soil.

PMID 25410123


The influence of long-term chemical fertilization on soil microbial communities has been one of the frontier topics of agricultural and environmental sciences and is critical for linking soil microbial flora with soil functions. In this study, 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing and a functional gene array, geochip 4.0, were used to investigate the shifts in microbial composition and functional gene structure in paddy soils with different fertilization treatments over a 22-year period. These included a control without fertilizers; chemical nitrogen fertilizer (N); N and phosphate (NP); N and potassium (NK); and N, P and K (NPK). Based on 16S rRNA gene data, both species evenness and key genera were affected by P fertilization. Functional gene array-based analysis revealed that long-term fertilization significantly changed the overall microbial functional structures. Chemical fertilization significantly increased the diversity and abundance of most genes involved in C, N, P and S cycling, especially for the treatments NK and NPK. Significant correlations were found among functional gene structure and abundance, related soil enzymatic activities and rice yield, suggesting that a fertilizer-induced shift in the microbial community may accelerate the nutrient turnover in soil, which in turn influenced rice growth. The effect of N fertilization on soil microbial functional genes was mitigated by the addition of P fertilizer in this P-limited paddy soil, suggesting that balanced chemical fertilization is beneficial to the soil microbial community and its functions.