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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Analysis of soil eDNA functional genes: potential to increase profitability and sustainability of pastoral agriculture


Management of soil biological resources to optimise plant production, efficiency of nutrient inputs, and system sustainability is an emerging opportunity for pastoral agriculture. To achieve these goals, suitable tools that can assess the functional state of the soil ecosystem must be developed and standardised approaches to their application adopted. Towards this end, we have undertaken comprehensive, high-density functional-gene microarray analysis (GeoChip5) of environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from 50 pastoral soils. When combined with soil, environmental and management metadata, the information can be used to provide insights into soil biological processes spanning greenhouse gas emissions, through to natural suppression of plant root diseases. To provide an example of a structured workflow of analysis in a pastoral system context, we analysed the GeoChip data using a combination of approaches spanning routine univariate methods through to more complex multivariate and network-based analysis. Analyses were restricted to comparing effects of land-use (dairy or ‘other’ farming systems), and exploring relationships of the GeoChip data with the soil properties from each sample. These exemplar analyses present a pathway for the application of eDNA approaches (GeoChip or others) to deliver outcomes for pastoral agricultural in New Zealand.

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