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Showing papers in "Plant and Soil in 2011"


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors synthesize literature concerning the sources, composition, mechanisms of stabilisation and destabilization of soil organic matter (SOM) stored in subsoil horizons.
Abstract: Despite their low carbon (C) content, most subsoil horizons contribute to more than half of the total soil C stocks, and therefore need to be considered in the global C cycle. Until recently, the properties and dynamics of C in deep soils was largely ignored. The aim of this review is to synthesize literature concerning the sources, composition, mechanisms of stabilisation and destabilization of soil organic matter (SOM) stored in subsoil horizons. Organic C input into subsoils occurs in dissolved form (DOC) following preferential flow pathways, as aboveground or root litter and exudates along root channels and/or through bioturbation. The relative importance of these inputs for subsoil C distribution and dynamics still needs to be evaluated. Generally, C in deep soil horizons is characterized by high mean residence times of up to several thousand years. With few exceptions, the carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio is decreasing with soil depth, while the stable C and N isotope ratios of SOM are increasing, indicating that organic matter (OM) in deep soil horizons is highly processed. Several studies suggest that SOM in subsoils is enriched in microbial-derived C compounds and depleted in energy-rich plant material compared to topsoil SOM. However, the chemical composition of SOM in subsoils is soil-type specific and greatly influenced by pedological processes. Interaction with the mineral phase, in particular amorphous iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al) oxides was reported to be the main stabilization mechanism in acid and near neutral soils. In addition, occlusion within soil aggregates has been identified to account for a great proportion of SOM preserved in subsoils. Laboratory studies have shown that the decomposition of subsoil C with high residence times could be stimulated by addition of labile C. Other mechanisms leading to destabilisation of SOM in subsoils include disruption of the physical structure and nutrient supply to soil microorganisms. One of the most important factors leading to protection of SOM in subsoils may be the spatial separation of SOM, microorganisms and extracellular enzyme activity possibly related to the heterogeneity of C input. As a result of the different processes, stabilized SOM in subsoils is horizontally stratified. In order to better understand deep SOM dynamics and to include them into soil C models, quantitative information about C fluxes resulting from C input, stabilization and destabilization processes at the field scale are necessary.

1,257 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the metal immobilization and phytoavailability of Cd, Cu and Pb was examined using naturally contaminated shooting range and spiked soils using chicken manure and green waste-derived biochar.
Abstract: Biochar has attracted research interest due to its ability to increase the soil carbon pool and improve crop productivity. The objective of this study was to evaluate the metal immobilizing impact of chicken manure- and green waste-derived biochars, and their effectiveness in promoting plant growth. The immobilization and phytoavailability of Cd, Cu and Pb was examined using naturally contaminated shooting range and spiked soils. Biochar samples prepared from chicken manure and green waste were used as soil amendments. Application of biochar significantly reduced NH4NO3 extractable Cd, Cu and Pb concentrations of soils, indicating the immobilization of these metals. Chicken manure-derived biochar increased plant dry biomass by 353 and 572% for shoot and root, respectively with 1% of biochar addition. This might be attributed to reduced toxicity of metals and increased availability of nutrients such as P and K. Both biochars significantly reduced Cd, Cu and Pb accumulation by Indian mustard (Brassica juncea), and the reduction increased with increasing amount of biochar application except Cu concentration. Metal sequential fractionation data indicated that biochar treatments substantially modified the partitioning of Cd, Cu and Pb from the easily exchangeable phase to less bioavailable organic bound fraction. The results clearly showed that biochar application was effective in metal immobilization, thereby reducing the bioavailability and phytotoxicity of heavy metals.

915 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Evidence that more P-efficient plants can be developed by modifying root growth and architecture, through manipulation of root exudates or by managing plant-microbial associations such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and microbial inoculants is critically reviewed.
Abstract: Background Agricultural production is often limited by low phosphorus (P) availability. In developing countries, which have limited access to P fertiliser, there is a need to develop plants that are more efficient at low soil P. In fertilised and intensive systems, P-efficient plants are required to minimise inefficient use of P-inputs and to reduce potential for loss of P to the environment.

697 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The method to visually score 10 root architectural traits of the root crown of an adult maize plant in the field in a few minutes underscores the suitability of the method to evaluate genotypes across environments.
Abstract: We present a method to visually score 10 root architectural traits of the root crown of an adult maize plant in the field in a few minutes. Phenotypic profiling of three recombinant inbred line (RIL) populations of maize (Zea mays L.; B73xMo17, Oh43xW64a, Ny821xH99) was conducted in 2008 in a silt loam soil in Pennsylvania and in a sandy soil in Wisconsin, and again in 2009 in Pennsylvania. Numbers, angles and branching pattern of crown and brace roots were assessed visually at flowering. Depending on the soil type in which plants were grown, sample processing took from three (sand) to 8 min (silt-loam). Visual measurement of the root crown required 2 min per sample irrespective of the environment. Visual scoring of root crowns gave a reliable estimation of values for root architectural traits as indicated by high correlations between measured and visually scored trait values for numbers (r2 = 0.46–0.97), angles (r2 = 0.66–0.76), and branching (r2 = 0.54–0.88) of brace and crown roots. Based on the visual evaluation of root crown traits it was possible to discriminate between populations. RILs derived from the cross NY821 x H99 generally had the greatest number of roots, the highest branching density and the most shallow root angles, while inbred lines from the cross between OH43 x W64a generally had the steepest root angles. The ranking of genotypes remained the same across environments, emphasizing the suitability of the method to evaluate genotypes across environments. Scoring of brace roots was better correlated with the actual measurements compared to crown roots. The visual evaluation of root architecture will be a valuable tool in tailoring crop root systems to specific environments.

547 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the impact of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) on the agronomic efficiency (AE) of applied nutrient inputs in maize-based systems in sub-Saharan Africa was evaluated through meta-analysis.
Abstract: Traditionally, crop production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) depends primarily on mining soil nutrients. Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) is an approach for intensifying agriculture in SSA that aims at maximizing the agronomic efficiency (AE) of applied nutrient inputs. ISFM contains the following essential components: proper fertilizer management, use of improved varieties, the combined application of organic inputs and fertilizer, and adaptation of input application rates to within-farm soil fertility gradients where these are important. This paper evaluates, through meta-analysis, the impact of these components on the AE of fertilizer N (N-AE), defined as extra grain yield per kg fertilizer N applied, in maize-based systems in SSA. Since N-AE is low for excessive fertilizer N application rates or when fertilizer is applied on fertile, unresponsive soil, as was confirmed by scatter plots against control yields and fertilizer N application rates, such values were removed from the database in order to focus on and elucidate the more variable and complex responses under less than ideal conditions typical for SSA. Compared with local varieties, the use of hybrid maize varieties significantly increased N-AE values (17 and 26 kg (kg N)−1, respectively) with no differences observed between local and improved, open-pollinated varieties. Mixing fertilizer with manure or compost resulted in the highest N-AE values [36 kg (kg N)−1] while organic inputs of medium quality also showed significantly higher N-AE values compared with the sole fertilizer treatment but only at low organic input application rates (40 and 23 kg (kg N)−1, respectively). High quality organic inputs (Class I) and those with a high C-to-N ratio (Class III) or high lignin content (Class IV) did not affect N-AE values in comparison with the sole fertilizer treatment. Application of N fertilizer on infields resulted in significantly higher N-AE values [31 kg (kg N)−1] compared with the outfields [17 kg (kg N)−1]. The obtained information indicates that N-AE is amenable to improved management practices and that the various components embedded in the ISFM definition result in improvements in N-AE.

372 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors investigate if biochar may improve plant eco-physiological responses under sufficient water supply as well as moderate drought stress, using three levels of biochar addition (0, 100 and 200 t ha−1) to a sandy soil and two water treatments (60% and 20% of the water holding capacity of the control), investigating growth, water use efficiency, ecophysiological parameters and greenhouse gas fluxes.
Abstract: The application of pyrogenic carbon, biochar, to agricultural soils is currently discussed as a win-win strategy to sequester carbon in soil, thus improving soil fertility and mitigate global warming. Our aim was to investigate if biochar may improve plant eco-physiological responses under sufficient water supply as well as moderate drought stress. A fully randomized greenhouse study was conducted with the pseudo-cereal Chenopodium quinoa Willd, using three levels of biochar addition (0, 100 and 200 t ha−1) to a sandy soil and two water treatments (60% and 20% of the water holding capacity of the control), investigating growth, water use efficiency, eco-physiological parameters and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes. Biochar application increased growth, drought tolerance and leaf-N- and water-use efficiency of quinoa despite larger plant–leaf areas. The plants growing in biochar-amended soil accumulated exactly the same amount of nitrogen in their larger leaf biomass than the control plants, causing significantly decreased leaf N-, proline- and chlorophyll-concentrations. In this regard, plant responses to biochar closely resembled those to elevated CO2. However, neither soil- nor plant–soil-respiration was higher in the larger plants, indicating less respiratory C losses per unit of biomass produced. Soil-N2O emissions were significantly reduced with biochar. The large application rate of 200 t ha−1 biochar did not improve plant growth compared to 100 t ha−1; hence an upper beneficial level exists. For quinoa grown in a sandy soil, biochar application might hence provide a win-win strategy for increased crop production, GHG emission mitigation and soil C sequestration.

371 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the causal edaphic, plant and microbial factors in the context of soil P management, P cycling and productivity goals of farms are explored, including better targeted P-fertiliser use, organic amendments, removing other constraints to yield, zone management, use of plants with low critical-P requirements, and modified farming systems.
Abstract: Phosphorus (P)-deficiency is a significant challenge for agricultural productivity on many highly P-sorbing weathered and tropical soils throughout the world. On these soils it can be necessary to apply up to five-fold more P as fertiliser than is exported in products. Given the finite nature of global P resources, it is important that such inefficiencies be addressed. For low P-sorbing soils, P-efficient farming systems will also assist attempts to reduce pollution associated with P losses to the environment. P-balance inefficiency of farms is associated with loss of P in erosion, runoff or leaching, uneven dispersal of animal excreta, and accumulation of P as sparingly-available phosphate and organic P in the soil. In many cases it is possible to minimise P losses in runoff or erosion. Uneven dispersal of P in excreta typically amounts to ~5% of P-fertiliser inputs. However, the rate of P accumulation in moderate to highly P-sorbing soils is a major contributor to inefficient P-fertiliser use. We discuss the causal edaphic, plant and microbial factors in the context of soil P management, P cycling and productivity goals of farms. Management interventions that can alter P-use efficiency are explored, including better targeted P-fertiliser use, organic amendments, removing other constraints to yield, zone management, use of plants with low critical-P requirements, and modified farming systems. Higher productivity in low-P soils, or lower P inputs in fertilised agricultural systems can be achieved by various interventions, but it is also critically important to understand the agroecology of plant P nutrition within farming systems for improvements in P-use efficiency to be realised.

346 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors evaluated a Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) approach to model the spatial distribution of stocks of soil organic carbon (SOC), total carbon (Ctot), total nitrogen (Ntot) and total sulphur (Stot) for a data-sparse, semi-arid catchment in Inner Mongolia, Northern China.
Abstract: Spatial prediction of soil organic matter is a global challenge and of particular importance for regions with intensive land use and where availability of soil data is limited. This study evaluated a Digital Soil Mapping (DSM) approach to model the spatial distribution of stocks of soil organic carbon (SOC), total carbon (Ctot), total nitrogen (Ntot) and total sulphur (Stot) for a data-sparse, semi-arid catchment in Inner Mongolia, Northern China. Random Forest (RF) was used as a new modeling tool for soil properties and Classification and Regression Trees (CART) as an additional method for the analysis of variable importance. At 120 locations soil profiles to 1 m depth were analyzed for soil texture, SOC, Ctot, Ntot, Stot, bulk density (BD) and pH. On the basis of a digital elevation model, the catchment was divided into pixels of 90 m × 90 m and for each cell, predictor variables were determined: land use unit, Reference Soil Group (RSG), geological unit and 12 topography-related variables. Prediction maps showed that the highest amounts of SOC, Ctot, Ntot and Stot stocks are stored under marshland, steppes and mountain meadows. River-like structures of very high elemental stocks in valleys within the steppes are partly responsible for the high amounts of SOC for grasslands (81–84% of total catchment stocks). Analysis of variable importance showed that land use, RSG and geology are the most important variables influencing SOC storage. Prediction accuracy of the RF modeling and the generated maps was acceptable and explained variances of 42 to 62% and 66 to 75%, respectively. A decline of up to 70% in elemental stocks was calculated after conversion of steppe to arable land confirming the risk of rapid soil degradation if steppes are cultivated. Thus their suitability for agricultural use is limited.

326 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the P use efficiency (PUE) of fertilisers is generally low in the year of application, but residual effectiveness is important, highlighting the importance of soil P testing prior to fertiliser use.
Abstract: Many agricultural soils worldwide in their natural state are deficient in phosphorus (P), and the production of healthy agricultural crops has required the regular addition of P fertilisers. In cropping systems, P accumulates almost predominantly in inorganic forms in soil, associated with aluminium, calcium and iron. In pasture soils, P accumulates in both inorganic and organic forms, but the chemical nature of much organic P is still unresolved. The P use efficiency (PUE) of fertilisers is generally low in the year of application, but residual effectiveness is important, highlighting the importance of soil P testing prior to fertiliser use. With increasing costs of P fertiliser, various technologies have been suggested to improve PUE, but few have provided solid field evidence for efficacy. Fluid fertilisers have been demonstrated under field conditions to increase PUE on highly calcareous soils. Slow release P products have been demonstrated to improve PUE in soils where leaching is important. Modification of soil chemistry around the fertiliser granule or fluid injection point also offers promise for increasing PUE, but is less well validated. Better placement of P, even into subsoils, also offers promise to increase PUE in both cropping and pasture systems.

298 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors analyzed the grazing-induced steppe degradation process and identified an efficient and sustainable grazing management system for the widely degraded Inner Mongolian typical steppe ecosystem.
Abstract: The major aims of this study were, firstly, to analyse the grazing-induced steppe degradation process and, secondly, to identify an efficient and sustainable grazing management system for the widely degraded Inner Mongolian typical steppe ecosystem. From 2005–2008 a grazing experiment was conducted to compare two grazing management systems, the Mixed System (MS) and the Traditional System (TS), along a gradient of seven grazing intensities, i.e. ungrazed (GI0), very-light (GI1), light (GI2), light-moderate (GI3), moderate (GI4), heavy (GI5), and very-heavy (GI6). Each grazing intensity treatment was considered a production unit comprising two adjacent plots, one for hay-making (single-cut system) and one for grazing. Hay-making and grazing alternated annually in the MS, while in the TS the same plots were used either for hay-making or for grazing. Effects of management system, grazing intensity, and year on end-of-season standing biomass (ESSB), aboveground net primary production (ANPP), relative difference in ANPP between 2005 and 2008 (ANPPDiff), relative growth rate (RGR), and sward characteristics (litter accumulation, soil coverage) were analysed. Litter accumulation of production units was affected by grazing intensity (P < 0.001) and decreased from GI0 to GI6 by 83%. Correspondingly, soil coverage decreased (P < 0.001) from GI0 to GI6 by 43%, indicating an increased vulnerability to soil erosion. We found varying compensatory growth responses to grazing intensity among years, probably because of temporal variability in precipitation. The ability of plants to partially compensate for grazing damage was enhanced in years of greater seasonal precipitation. The ANPP of production units was negatively affected by grazing intensity and decreased from GI0 to GI6 by 37, 30, and 55% in 2006 (P < 0.01), 2007 (P < 0.05), and 2008 (P < 0.001), respectively. The effect of management system × grazing intensity interaction on ANPP (P < 0.05) and ANPPDiff (P < 0.05) suggested greater grazing resilience of the MS as compared to the TS at GI3 to GI6.

277 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The combined application of organic resources (ORs) and mineral fertilizers is increasingly gaining recognition as a viable approach to address soil fertility decline in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as discussed by the authors, where the authors conducted a meta-analysis to provide a comprehensive and quantitative synthesis of conditions under which ORs, N fertilizers, and combined ORs with N fertilizer positively or negatively influence Zea mays (maize) yields, agronomic N use efficiency and soil organic C (SOC) in SSA.
Abstract: The combined application of organic resources (ORs) and mineral fertilizers is increasingly gaining recognition as a viable approach to address soil fertility decline in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) We conducted a meta-analysis to provide a comprehensive and quantitative synthesis of conditions under which ORs, N fertilizers, and combined ORs with N fertilizers positively or negatively influence Zea mays (maize) yields, agronomic N use efficiency and soil organic C (SOC) in SSA Four OR quality classes were assessed; classes I (high quality) and II (intermediate quality) had >25% N while classes III (intermediate quality) and IV (low quality) had <25% N and classes I and III had <4% polyphenol and <15% lignin On the average, yield responses over the control were 60%, 84% and 114% following the addition of ORs, N fertilizers and ORs + N fertilizers, respectively There was a general increase in yield responses with increasing OR quality and OR-N quantity, both when ORs were added alone or with N fertilizers Surprisingly, greater OR residual effects were observed with high quality ORs and declined with decreasing OR quality The greater yield responses with ORs + N fertilizers than either resource alone were mostly due to extra N added and not improved N utilization efficiency because negative interactive effects were, most often, observed when combining ORs with N fertilizers Additionally, their agronomic N use efficiency was not different from sole added ORs but lower than N fertilizers added alone Nevertheless, positive interactive effects were observed in sandy soils with low quality ORs whereas agronomic use efficiency was greater when smaller quantities of N were added in all soils Compared to sole added ORs, yield responses for the combined treatment increased with decreasing OR quality and greater yield increases were observed in sandy (68%) than clayey soils (25%) While ORs and ORs + N fertilizer additions increased SOC by at least 12% compared to the control, N fertilizer additions were not different from control suggesting that ORs are needed to increase SOC Thus, the addition of ORs will likely improve nutrient storage while crop yields are increased and more so for high quality ORs Furthermore, interactive effects are seldom occurring, but agronomic N use efficiency of ORs + N fertilizers were greater with low quantities of N added, offering potential for increasing crop productivity

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Strategies to mitigate diffuse losses of P must consider chronic (edaphic) and acute, temporary (fertilizer, manure, vegetation) sources, and conventional conservation practices aimed at controlling soil erosion must be evaluated in light of their ability to exacerbate dissolved P pollution.
Abstract: Background The eutrophication of aquatic systems due to diffuse pollution of agricultural phosphorus (P) is a local, even regional, water quality problem that can be found world-wide. Scope Sustainable management of P requires prudent tempering of agronomic practices, recognizing that additional steps are often required to reduce the downstream impacts of most production systems. Conclusions Strategies to mitigate diffuse losses of P must consider chronic (edaphic) and acute, temporary (fertilizer, manure, vegetation) sources. Even then, hydrology can readily convert modest sources into significant loads, including via subsurface pathways. Systemic drivers, particularly P surpluses that result in long-term over-application of P to soils, are the most recalcitrant causes of diffuse P loss. Even in systems where P application is in balance with withdrawal, diffuse pollution can be exacerbated by management systems that promote accumulation of P within the effective layer of effective interaction between soils and runoff water. Indeed, conventional conservation practicesaimed at controlling soil erosion must be evaluated in light of their ability to exacerbate dissolved P pollution. Understanding the opportunities and limitations of P management strategies is essential to ensure that water quality expectations are realistic and that our beneficial management practices are both efficient and effective.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, a multidisciplinary approach has been used to improve P management at the field and national level in China, where management strategies based on the soil and on the plant rhizosphere have been developed to increase efficient use of P.
Abstract: Crop production in China has been greatly improved by increasing phosphorus (P) fertilizer input, but overuse of P by farmers has caused low use efficiency, increasing environmental risk and accumulation of P in soil. From 1980 to 2007, average 242 kg P ha−1 accumulated in soil, resulting in average soil Olsen P increasing from 7.4 to 24.7 mg kg−1. China is facing huge challenges to improve P use efficiency through optimizing corresponding technology and policies. The problem is exacerbated because people have been shifting their diet from plant-based to animal-enriched foods. This results in higher P load in the food chain and lower P use efficiency. A multidisciplinary approach has been used to improve P management at the field and national level in China. Management strategies based on the soil and on the plant rhizosphere have been developed to increase efficient use of P. A national soil testing and fertilizer recommendation program has been used since 2005 to control build-up and maintenance of P levels. Interactions between root growth and the rhizosphere have been manipulated in intercropping systems and plant genetic traits have been exploited. Phosphorus surplus is highly associated with animal concentrated feed. The P-saving potential by the integrated P management strategies of P flow reaches 1.46 Mt P in 2050 compared to 2005.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: An integrated disease management strategy that fits modern sustainable agriculture criteria must be implemented, integrating biological, chemical, physical, and cultural approaches to effectively control Verticillium wilt of olive.
Abstract: Olive (Olea europaea L.) is one of the first domesticated and cultivated tree species and has historical, social and economical relevance. However, its future as a strategic commodity in Mediterranean agriculture is threatened by diverse biotic (traditional and new/emerging pests and diseases) and abiotic (erosion, climate change) menaces. These problems could also be of relevance for new geographical areas where olive cultivation is not traditional but is increasingly spreading (i.e., South America, Australia, etc). One of the major constraints for olive cultivation is Verticillium wilt, a vascular disease caused by the soil-borne fungus Verticillium dahliae Kleb. In this review we describe how Verticillium wilt of olive (VWO) has become a major problem for olive cultivation during the last two decades. Similar to other vascular diseases, VWO is difficult to manage and single control measure are mostly ineffective. Therefore, an integrated disease management strategy that fits modern sustainable agriculture criteria must be implemented. Multidisciplinary research efforts and advances to understand this pathosystem and to develop appropriate control measures are summarized. The main conclusion is that a holistic approach is the best strategy to effectively control VWO, integrating biological, chemical, physical, and cultural approaches.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The hypothesis that the application of biochar would lead to a reduction in emissions of GHG from soils was not supported and it is demonstrated that intensively managed subtropical pastures on ferrosols in northern New South Wales of Australia can be a significant source of GHGs.
Abstract: We assessed the effect of biochar incorporation into the soil on the soil-atmosphere exchange of the greenhouse gases (GHG) from an intensive subtropical pasture. For this, we measured N2O, CH4 and CO2 emissions with high temporal resolution from April to June 2009 in an existing factorial experiment where cattle feedlot biochar had been applied at 10 t ha−1 in November 2006. Over the whole measurement period, significant emissions of N2O and CO2 were observed, whereas a net uptake of CH4 was measured. N2O emissions were found to be highly episodic with one major emission pulse (up to 502 μg N2O-N m−2 h−1) following heavy rainfall. There was no significant difference in the net flux of GHGs from the biochar amended vs. the control plots. Our results demonstrate that intensively managed subtropical pastures on ferrosols in northern New South Wales of Australia can be a significant source of GHG. Our hypothesis that the application of biochar would lead to a reduction in emissions of GHG from soils was not supported in this field assessment. Additional studies with longer observation periods are needed to clarify the long term effect of biochar amendment on soil microbial processes and the emission of GHGs under field conditions.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: A comprehensive comparison of the strategies that have been developed to address Fe deficiency is provided and the most recent advance in soil and crop management to improve the Fe nutrition of crops is discussed.
Abstract: Plants and humans cannot easily acquire iron from their nutrient sources although it is abundant in nature. Thus, iron deficiency is one of the major limiting factors affecting crop yields, food quality and human nutrition. Therefore, approaches need to be developed to increase Fe uptake by roots, transfer to edible plant portions and absorption by humans from plant food sources. Integrated strategies for soil and crop management are attractive not only for improving growing conditions for crops but also for exploiting a plant’s potential for Fe mobilization and utilization. Recent research progress in soil and crop management has provided the means to resolve complex plant Fe nutritional problems through manipulating the rhizosphere (e.g., rhizosphere fertilization and water regulation), and crop management (includes managing cropping systems and screening for Fe efficient species and varieties). Some simple and effective soil management practices, termed ‘rhizosphere fertilization’ (such as root feeding and bag fertilization) have been developed and widely used by local farmers in China to improve the Fe nutrition of fruit plants. Production practices for rice cultivation are shifting from paddy-rice to aerobic rice to make more efficient use of irrigation water. This shift has brought about increases in Fe deficiency in rice, a new challenge depressing iron availability in rice and reducing Fe supplies to humans. Current crop management strategies addressing Fe deficiency include Fe foliar application, trunk injection, plant breeding for enriched Fe crop species and varieties, and selection of cropping systems. Managing cropping systems, such as intercropping strategies may have numerous advantages in terms of increasing Fe availability to plants. Studies of intercropping systems on peanut/maize, wheat/chickpea and guava/sorghum or -maize increased Fe content of crops and their seed, which suggests that a reasonable intercropping system of iron-efficient species could prevent or mitigate Fe deficiency in Fe-inefficient plants. This review provides a comprehensive comparison of the strategies that have been developed to address Fe deficiency and discusses the most recent advance in soil and crop management to improve the Fe nutrition of crops. These proofs of concept studies will serve as the basis for future Fe research and for integrated and optimized management strategies to alleviate Fe deficiency in farmers’ fields.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Better mimicking natural ecosystems and exploiting plant diversity appears as an appealing way forward, on this long and winding road towards ecological intensification of agroecosystems.
Abstract: In the context of increasing global food demand, ecological intensification of agroecosystems is required to increase nutrient use efficiency in plants while decreasing fertilizer inputs. Better exploration and exploitation of soil resources is a major issue for phosphorus, given that rock phosphate ores are finite resources, which are going to be exhausted in decades from now on. We review the processes governing the acquisition by plants of poorly mobile nutrients in soils, with a particular focus on processes at the root–soil interface. Rhizosphere processes are poorly accounted for in most plant nutrition models. This lack largely explains why present-day models fail at predicting the actual uptake of poorly mobile nutrients such as phosphorus under low input conditions. A first section is dedicated to biophysical processes and the spatial/temporal development of the rhizosphere. A second section concentrates on biochemical/biogeochemical processes, while a third section addresses biological/ecological processes operating in the rhizosphere. New routes for improving soil nutrient efficiency are addressed, with a particular focus on breeding and ecological engineering options. Better mimicking natural ecosystems and exploiting plant diversity appears as an appealing way forward, on this long and winding road towards ecological intensification of agroecosystems.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: AMS have key roles in providing ecosystem services that are receiving increasing attention worldwide, and the imperative for research that is aimed at increasing benefits of AM symbioses in the field at a time of increasing prices of P-fertiliser, and increasing demands on agriculture to feed the world is emphasised.
Abstract: Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbioses are widespread in land plants but the extent to which they are functionally important in agriculture remains unclear, despite much previous research. We ask focused questions designed to give new perspectives on AM function, some based on recent research that is overturning past beliefs. We address factors that determine growth responses (from positive to negative) in AM plants, the extent to which AM plants that lack positive responses benefit in terms of nutrient (particularly phosphate: P) uptake, whether or not AM and nonmycorrhizal (NM) plants acquire different forms of soil P, and the cause(s) of AM ‘growth depressions’. We consider the relevance of laboratory work to the agricultural context, including effects of high (available) soil P on AM fungal colonisation and whether AM colonisation may be deleterious to crop production due to fungal ‘parasitism’. We emphasise the imperative for research that is aimed at increasing benefits of AM symbioses in the field at a time of increasing prices of P-fertiliser, and increasing demands on agriculture to feed the world. In other words, AM symbioses have key roles in providing ecosystem services that are receiving increasing attention worldwide.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the effects of varied nitrogen (N) and Zn supply on the total uptake, remobilization and partitioning of Zn, Fe and N in durum wheat throughout its ontogenesis were investigated.
Abstract: Deficiencies of zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe) are global nutritional problems and caused most often by their limited dietary intake. Increasing Zn and Fe concentrations of staple food crops such as wheat is therefore an important global challenge. This study investigated the effects of varied nitrogen (N) and Zn supply on the total uptake, remobilization and partitioning of Zn, Fe and N in durum wheat throughout its ontogenesis. Plants were grown under greenhouse conditions with high or low supply of N and Zn, and harvested at 8 different developmental stages for analysis of Zn, Fe and N in leaves, stems, husks and grains. The results obtained showed that the Zn and Fe uptake per plant was enhanced up to 4-fold by high N supply while the increases in plant growth by high N supply were much less. When both the Zn and N supplies were high, approximately 50% of grain Zn and 80% of grain Fe were provided by post-anthesis shoot uptake, indicating that the contribution of remobilization to grain accumulation was higher for Zn than for Fe. At the high N and Zn application, about 60% of Zn, but only 40% of Fe initially stored in vegetative parts were retranslocated to grains, and nearly 80% of total shoot Zn and 60% of total shoot Fe were harvested with grains. All these values were significantly lower at the low N treatment. Results indicate that N nutrition is a critical factor in both the acquisition and grain allocation of Zn and Fe in wheat.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors evaluate how harvest system and N fertilizer rates affected biomass yield and nutrient composition of young stands of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) in the southern Great Plains, USA.
Abstract: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) may have value as forage and a bioenergy feedstock. Our objective was to evaluate how harvest system and N fertilizer rates affected biomass yield and nutrient composition of young stands of switchgrass (cv. Alamo) in the southern Great Plains, USA. Nitrogen fertilization increased biomass yields from 10.4, 10.8, and 12.2 Mg ha −1 at 0 kg N ha −1 to 13.7, 14.6, and 21.0 Mg ha −1 at 225 kg N ha −1 when harvested after seed set (October), after frost (December), and twice per year after boot stage (July) and frost, respectively. Nutrient concentrations and removal were generally twice as great when biomass was harvested twice versus once per year. Precipitation strongly affected biomass yields across the two years of these experiments. When late-summer precipitation is available to support regrowth in this environment, harvesting switchgrass twice per year will result in greater biomass yields. Harvesting twice per year, however, will increase fertilization requirements and reduce feedstock biomass quality. Switchgrass harvested during mid-summer after boot stage was of poor forage quality. To have value as a dual-purpose forage and bioenergy feedstock, switchgrass would need to be utilized during spring to early summer while in a vegetative stage.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the relative solubilization effect of carboxylates compared to the background electrolyte (KCl) control decreased by 20-50% in soils with high and low P surface site saturation.
Abstract: Exudation of organic acid anions by plants as well as root-induced changes in rhizosphere pH can potentially improve phosphate (Pi) availability in the rhizosphere and are frequently found to occur simultaneously. In non-calcareous soils, a major proportion of Pi is strongly sorbed to metal oxi(hydr)oxides of mainly iron (Fe) and aluminium (Al) and organic anions are known to compete with Pi for the same sorption sites (ligand exchange) or solubilize Pi via ligand-promoted mineral dissolution. Root-induced co-acidification may also further promote Pi release from soil. The relative efficiency of these different solubilization mechanisms, however, is poorly understood. The aims of this study were to gain a better mechanistic understanding of the solubilizing mechanisms of four carboxylates (citrate, malate, oxalate, malonate) in five soils with high and low P surface site saturation. Results indicate that at a lower P saturation of solid phase sorption sites, ligand-promoted mineral dissolution was the main Pi solubilization mechanism, while ligand exchange became more important at higher soil P concentrations. Co-acidification generally increased Pi solubility in the presence of carboxylates; however the relative solubilizing effect of carboxylates compared to the background electrolyte (KCl) control decreased by 20–50%. In soils with high amounts of exchangeable calcium (Ca), the proton-induced Ca solubilization reduced soluble Pi, presumably due to ionic-strength-driven changes in the electric surface potential favoring a higher Pi retention. Across a wider soil pH range (pH 3–8), Pi solubility increased with increasing alkalinity, as a result of both, more negatively charged sorption sites, as well as DOC-driven changes in Fe and Al solubility, which were further enhanced by the presence of citrate. Overall, the relative efficiency of carboxylates in solubilizing Pi was greatest in soils with medium to high amounts of anionic binding sites (mainly Fe- and Al-oxy(hydr)oxides) and a medium P sorption site coverage, with citrate being most effective in solubilizing Pi.

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TL;DR: In this article, the authors identify the factors determining the activity and size of the mobile fraction of extracellular enzymes (laccase, Mn-peroxidase, endocellulase, cellobiohydrolase, β-glucosidase and endoxylanase) using a set of soils covering a wide range of physico-chemical properties.
Abstract: The decomposition of soil organic matter is mediated by extracellular enzymes. The aim of this work was to identify the factors determining the activity and size of the mobile fraction of extracellular enzymes (laccase, Mn-peroxidase, endocellulase, cellobiohydrolase, β-glucosidase, endoxylanase, β-xylosidase, α-glucosidase, chitinase, arylsulfatase, phosphatase, phosphodiesterase, alanine and leucine aminopeptidase) using a set of soils covering a wide range of physico-chemical properties. Organic matter content had a major effect on enzyme activity both in forest and grassland soils, while the effects of pH and humic compounds content were only important in forest soils, and the molecular mass of humic compounds and Ca content were only important in grasslands. Specific enzyme activity was either comparable between the soil types or higher in grasslands. With the exception of Mn-peroxidase and β-glucosidase, the specific activities of all enzymes in arable fields under tillage were similar to those in grasslands. Mobility differed among the enzymes and ranged from <1% for arylsulfatase and phosphodiesterase up to 20–40% for α-glucosidase and aminopeptidases, with pH being the most important variable. These results demonstrate that the factors regulating enzyme activity are likely to be different in forest soils and grasslands and that enzyme mobility is a characteristic feature of each individual enzyme.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The results showed that the application of the BIO2 significantly decreased the incidence rate of Fusarium wilt compared to the control, and speculated that the colonization pattern of B.subtilis N11 can be linked to the mechanism of protection of plants from fungal infection.
Abstract: Fusarium wilt is one of the most serious diseases caused by a soil-borne pathogen affecting banana production. The goal of this study was to evaluate the capability of a novel bio-organic fertilizer (BIO2) that integrated the biocontrol agent Bacillus subtilis N11, and mature composts to control Fusarium wilt of banana in pot experiments. The results showed that the application of the BIO2 significantly decreased the incidence rate of Fusarium wilt compared to the control. To determine the antagonistic mechanism of the strain, we also studied the colonization of the natural biocontrol agent on banana roots using a GFP marker. The studies were performed in a hydroponic culture system, a sand system and a natural soil system. The results indicated that the bacteria colonized predominantly by forming biofilms along the elongation and differentiation zones of the roots. The fact that similar observations were obtained in all three systems suggests that colonization by N11 can be studied in a defined system. The population of B. subtilis N11 in the rhizosphere and on banana roots was also monitored. We speculate that the colonization pattern of B.subtilis N11 can be linked to the mechanism of protection of plants from fungal infection.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the role of soil and foliar-applied Fe fertilizers in improving shoot and grain Fe concentration in durum wheat (Triticum durum) grown under increasing N supply as Ca-nitrate.
Abstract: Increasing iron (Fe) concentration in food crops is an important global challenge due to high incidence of Fe deficiency in human populations. Evidence is available showing that nitrogen (N) fertilization increases Fe concentration in wheat grain. This positive impact of N on grain Fe was, however, not studied under varied soil and foliar applications of Fe. Greenhouse experiments were conducted to investigate a role of soil- and foliar-applied Fe fertilizers in improving shoot and grain Fe concentration in durum wheat (Triticum durum) grown under increasing N supply as Ca-nitrate. Additionally, an effect of foliar Fe fertilizers on grain Fe was tested with and without urea in the spray solution. Application of various soil or foliar Fe fertilizers had either a little positive effect or remained ineffective on shoot or grain Fe. By contrast, at a given Fe treatment, raising N supply substantially enhanced shoot and grain concentrations of Fe and Zn. Improving N status of plants from low to sufficient resulted in a 3-fold increase in shoot Fe content (e.g., total Fe accumulated), whereas this increase was only 42% for total shoot dry weight. Inclusion of urea in foliar Fe fertilizers had a positive impact on grain Fe concentration. Nitrogen fertilization represents an important agronomic practice in increasing grain Fe. Therefore, the plant N status deserves special attention in biofortification of food crops with Fe.

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TL;DR: It is concluded that low matric potential may be more detrimental than a corresponding low osmotic potential at optimal soil water content, likely a consequence of the restricted diffusion of substrates and thus a reduced ability of the microbes to synthesise osmolytes to help maintain cell water content.
Abstract: Low soil water content (low matric potential) and salinity (low osmotic potential) occur frequently in soils, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. Although the effect of low matric or low osmotic potential on soil microorganisms have been studied before, this is the first report which compares the effect of the two stresses on microbial activity and community structure. A sand and a sandy loam, differing in pore size distribution, nutrient content and microbial biomass and community structure, were used. For the osmotic stress experiment, salt (NaCl) was added to achieve osmotic potentials from −0.99 to −13.13 MPa (sand) and from −0.21 to 3.41 MPa (sandy loam) after which the soils were pre-incubated at optimal water content for 10d. For the matric stress experiment, soils were also pre-incubated at optimal water content for 10d, after which the water content was adjusted to give matric potentials from −0.03 and −1.68 MPa (sand) and from −0.10 to 1.46 MPa (sandy loam). After amendment with 2% (w/w) pea straw (C/N 26), soil respiration was measured over 14d. Osmotic potential decreased with decreasing soil water content, particularly in the sand. Soil respiration decreased with decreasing water potential (osmotic + matric). At a given water potential, respiration decreased to a greater extent in the matric stress experiment than in the osmotic stress experiment. Decreasing osmotic and matric potential reduced microbial biomass (sum of phospholipid fatty acids measured after 14 days) and changed microbial community structure: fungi were less tolerant to decreasing osmotic potential than bacteria, but more tolerant to decreasing water content. It is concluded that low matric potential may be more detrimental than a corresponding low osmotic potential at optimal soil water content. This is likely to be a consequence of the restricted diffusion of substrates and thus a reduced ability of the microbes to synthesise osmolytes to help maintain cell water content. The study also highlighted that it needs to be considered that decreasing soil water content concentrates the salts, hence microorganisms in dry soils are exposed to two stressors.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The role of plant evenness in structuring the soil community suggests mechanisms including complementarity in root exudate profiles or root foraging patterns as well as a strong impact on some aspects of soil ecosystem function.
Abstract: Understanding the links between plant diversity and soil communities is critical to disentangling the mechanisms by which plant communities modulate ecosystem function. Experimental plant communities varying in species richness, evenness, and density were established using a response surface design and soil community properties including bacterial and archaeal abundance, richness, and evenness were measured. The potential to perform a representative soil ecosystem function, oxidation of ammonium to nitrite, was measured via archaeal and bacterial amoA genes. Structural equation modeling was used to explore the direct and indirect effects of the plant community on soil diversity and potential function. Plant communities influenced archaea and bacteria via different pathways. Species richness and evenness had significant direct effects on soil microbial community structure, but the mechanisms driving these effects did not include either root biomass or the pools of carbon and nitrogen available to the soil microbial community. Species richness had direct positive effects on archaeal amoA prevalence, but only indirect impacts on bacterial communities through modulation of plant evenness. Increased plant evenness increased bacterial abundance which in turn increased bacterial amoA abundance. These results suggest that plant community evenness may have a strong impact on some aspects of soil ecosystem function. We show that a more even plant community increased bacterial abundance, which then increased the potential for bacterial nitrification. A more even plant community also increased total dissolved nitrogen in the soil, which decreased the potential for archaeal nitrification. The role of plant evenness in structuring the soil community suggests mechanisms including complementarity in root exudate profiles or root foraging patterns.

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TL;DR: Comparison with saprotrophic basidiomycetes from the same environment showed that microfungi have similar cellulolytic capabilities and higher chitinase activities which testifies for their active role in the decomposition of both lignocellulose and dead fungal biomass, important pools of soil carbon.
Abstract: Production of extracellular enzymes participating in the degradation of biopolymers was studied in 29 strains of nonbasidiomycetous microfungi isolated from Quercus petraea forest soil based on the frequency of occurrence. Most of the isolates were ascomycetes and belonged to the genera Acremonium, Alternaria, Cladosporium, Geomyces, Hypocrea, Myrothecium, Ochrocladosporium, and Penicillium (18 isolates), and two isolates were zygomycetes. Only six isolates showed phenol oxidation activity which was low and none of the strains were able to degrade humic acids. Approximately half of the strains were able to degrade cellulose and all but six degraded chitin. Most strains produced significant amounts of the cellulolytic enzymes cellobiohydrolase and β-glucosidase and the chitinolytic enzymes chitinase, chitobiosidase, and N-acetylglucosaminidase. The highest cellulase activities were found in Penicillium strains, and the highest activity of chitinolytic enzymes was found in Acremonium sp. The production of the hemicellulose-degrading enzymes α-galactosidase, β-galactosidase, and α-mannosidase was mostly low. The microfungal strains were able to produce significant growth on a range of 41–87, out of 95 simple C-containing substrates tested in a Biolog™ assay, monosaccharides being for all strains the most rapidly metabolized C-sources. Comparison with saprotrophic basidiomycetes from the same environment showed that microfungi have similar cellulolytic capabilities and higher chitinase activities which testifies for their active role in the decomposition of both lignocellulose and dead fungal biomass, important pools of soil carbon.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Wang et al. as discussed by the authors investigated the effect of different vegetation types on physicochemical and microbial soil properties in the Loess Plateau, with the aim of determining which revegetation type has the best capacity for soil recovery.
Abstract: Serious soil erosion has resulted in widespread land degradation in the Loess Plateau of China. In the past two decades, great efforts have been made to restore degraded soil such as reconverting croplands into forestlands or grasslands. A comparison of soil qualities of different revegetation types has important implications in soil reclamation. Our study investigated the effect of different revegetation types on the physicochemical and microbial soil properties in the Loess Plateau, with the aim of determining which revegetation type has the best capacity for soil recovery. The vegetation types included two shrublands (Caragana korshinskii and Hippophae rhamnoides), two grasslands (Astragalus adsurgens and Panicum virgatum), and two species from croplands that were abandoned for natural recovery (Artemisia capillaries and Heteropappus altaicus). Among the plants studied, H. altaicus and A. capillaries had the highest values of soil organic C, total N, total P, available N, available P, moisture content, microbial biomass C (MBC), substrate-induced respiration, saccharase, urease, catalase, and peroxidase. Soil sampled from the A. adsurgens plot had the highest bulk density and microbial biomass N, and soil from the H. rhamnoides plot had the highest metabolic quotient (basal respiration/MBC). The soil quality index, which was obtained based on the available N, metabolic quotient, MBC, urease, polyphenol oxidase, and bulk density, shows that the abandoned cropland for natural recovery had the highest soil quality, followed by grassland, and then shrubland. Vegetation types affect the physicochemical and microbial properties of soils in arid climatic conditions. Abandoned cropland for natural recovery has the best capacity for improving soil quality in the Loess Plateau among all studied revegetation types. Our study suggests that in the Loess Plateau, natural recovery is the best choice for soil revegetation of sloping croplands.

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TL;DR: Screening for antagonism against this fungal pathogen, one of the more straightforward methods used for the selection of bacterial biocontrol agents, was proven to be a valid strategy for this experimental system.
Abstract: Over the years, many bacterial isolates have been evaluated as potential biocontrol agents against soilborne fungal phytopathogens. However, few of them were ultimately successful after evaluation in field trials. One of the major reasons for this failure is the lack of appropriate screening procedures to select the most suitable microorganisms for disease control in diverse soil environments. For this reason, the study of bacterial screening has a future that is characterised by many technical and conceptual challenges. In this review, we summarise and discuss the convenience of use of the main screening methods currently applied to select bacterial candidates for biocontrol of fungal and oomycete soilborne phytopathogens. Also, a comparative case study of the application of different screening methods applied to an experimental pathosystem is shown, revealing the success of bacterial candidates selected by different strategies for biocontrol of the phytopathogenic fungus Rosellinia necatrix in avocado plants. Screening for antagonism against this fungal pathogen, one of the more straightforward methods used for the selection of bacterial biocontrol agents, was proven to be a valid strategy for this experimental system.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Wang et al. as mentioned in this paper investigated whether there were seasonal shifts (dry/wet season) of water sources for plants growing on the continuous dolostone outcrops, and comparing their differences with those growing on nearby thin soils in karst areas of southwest China.
Abstract: In karst regions, forests often grow on bedrock outcrops, however the water sources used by the forest vegetation are not known. This study aimed at investigating whether there were seasonal shifts (dry/wet season) of water sources for plants growing on the continuous dolostone outcrops, and comparing their differences with those growing on nearby thin soils in karst areas of southwest China. Rainwater, soil water within 0-30 cm depths, spring water (as a reflection of local deep water sources) and plant xylem water were sampled in March (late dry season) and July (mid rainy season) 2009, respectively. A direct inference approach and the IsoSource mixing model were used to estimate the contributions of different sources to the plant xylem water. On the outcrops, the deciduous tree species Radermachera sinica mainly used deep water sources during the dry season and a mixture of rainwater and deep water sources during the wet season. By contrast, the deciduous small shrub Alchornea trewioides largely relied on recent rainwater during both dry and wet seasons. Three non-deciduous species (Sterculia euosma, Schefflera octophylla and Ficus orthoneura) appear to rely on deep water sources during the wet seasons. In nearby thin soils, R. sinica mainly utilized deep water in the dry season and a mixture of soil water and deep water in the wet season. A. trewioides relied on the same water sources (rainwater-derived soil water) in the different seasons. The above results indicate that inter-specific differences in rooting patterns and leaf phenologies may lead to the differ- ences in the sources of water used by coexisting plant species in karst regions.