Effects of plant-symbiotic relationships on the living soil microbial community and microbial necromass in a long-term agro-ecosystem

J. Schmidt, T. Fester, E. Schulz, B. Michalzik, F. Buscot, J. Gutknecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We examined the impact of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobia on the living microbial community and microbial necromass under different long-term fertilization treatments at the long-term Static Fertilization Experiment Bad Lauchstädt (Germany). Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) and amino sugars plus muramic acid, were used as biomarkers for soil microbial bio- and necromass, respectively, and analyzed from six treatments imposed on two crop rotations, varying only in the inclusion/non-inclusion of a legume. Treatments included: two levels of only farmyard manure (FYM), only mineral fertilizer (NPK), the combined application of both fertilizer types and a non-fertilized control. PLFA profiles differed clearly between the investigated crop rotations and were significantly related to labile C, mineral N, and soil pH. This emphasizes the role of carbon, and of mycorrhizal and rhizobial symbioses, as driver for changes in the microbial community composition due to effects on the living conditions in soil. We found some evidence that legume associated symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobia act as a buffer, reducing the impact of varying inputs of mineral nutrients on the decomposer community. While our results support former findings that living microbial populations vary within short-term periods and are reflective of a given crop grown in a given year, soil necromass composition indicates longer term changes across the two crop rotation types, mainly shaped by fertilizer related effects on the community composition and C turnover. However, there was some evidence that specifically the presence of a legume, affects the soil necromass composition not only over the whole crop rotation but even in the short-term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)756-765
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • AMF
  • Amino sugars
  • Long-term fertilization
  • PLFA
  • Rhizobia

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