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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of agricultural management on rhizosphere microbial structure and function in processing tomato.

  • Author(s): Schmidt, Jennifer E
  • Vannette, Rachel L
  • Igwe, Alexandria
  • Blundell, Rob
  • Casteel, Clare L
  • Gaudin, Amélie CM
  • et al.

Agricultural management practices affect bulk soil microbial communities and the functions they carry out, but it remains unclear how these effects extend to the rhizosphere in different agroecosystem contexts. Given close linkages between rhizosphere processes and plant nutrition and productivity, understanding how management practices impact this critical zone is of great importance to optimize plant-soil interactions for agricultural sustainability. A comparison of six paired conventional-organic processing tomato farms was conducted to investigate relationships between management, soil physicochemical parameters, and rhizosphere microbial community composition and functions. Organically managed fields were higher in soil total N and NO3-N, total and labile C, plant Ca, S, and Cu, and other essential nutrients, while soil pH was higher in conventionally managed fields. Differential abundance, indicator species, and random forest analyses of rhizosphere communities revealed compositional differences between organic and conventional systems and identified management-specific microbial taxa. Phylogeny-based trait prediction showed that these differences translated into more abundant pathogenesis-related gene functions in conventional systems. Structural equation modeling revealed a greater effect of soil biological communities than physicochemical parameters on plant outcomes. These results highlight the importance of rhizosphere-specific studies, as plant selection likely interacts with management in regulating microbial communities and functions that impact agricultural productivity.ImportanceAgriculture relies in part on close linkages between plants and the microorganisms that live in association with plant roots. These rhizosphere bacteria and fungi are distinct from microbial communities found in the rest of the soil and are even more important to plant nutrient uptake and health. Evidence from field studies shows that agricultural management practices such as fertilization and tillage shape microbial communities in bulk soil, but little is known about how these practices affect the rhizosphere. We investigated how agricultural management affects plant-soil-microbe interactions by comparing soil physical and chemical properties, plant nutrients, and rhizosphere microbial communities from paired fields under organic and conventional management. Our results show that human management effects extend even to microorganisms living in close association with plant roots and highlight the importance of these bacteria and fungi to crop nutrition and productivity.

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