Long-term nitrogen fertilization impacts on soil bacteria, grain yield and nitrogen use efficiency of wheat in semiarid loess plateau, China

Aixia Xu, Lingling Li, Jeffrey A. Coulter, Junhong Xie, Subramaniam Gopalakrishnan, Renzhi Zhang, Zhuzhu Luo, Liqun Cai, Chang Liu, Linlin Wang, Shahbaz Khan

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16 Scopus citations


Soil bacteria are key components of the soil microbial community contributing to soil health. Nitrogen (N) fertilization is an important factor that affects soil microbial community and cereal production. This study aims to explore the impact of long-term N fertilization on soil bacterial diversity, nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), and the grain yield of wheat in the semiarid region of Loess Plateau, China. The field experiment was conducted from 2003 to 2018 including five N treatments: 0 (N0), 52.5 (N52.5), 105 (N105), 157.5 (N157.5), and 210 (N210) kg N ha−1 yr−1. The soil pH was decreased by the N fertilization, while the soil ammonium, nitrate, and available phosphorus were increased. The N uptake and grain yield of wheat were significantly increased with N and the highest NUE (28%) and grain yield (44% higher than control) were observed at 105 kg N ha−1, but no significant increase in yield was observed by further increasing N rate. The bacterial diversity was significantly increased at N105. Soil bacteria community was strongly related to soil chemical properties and ammonium content was the most important contributor. The dominant soil bacterial phyla were Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Chloroflexi, Gemmatimonadetes, Bacteroidetes, Nitrospirae, Verrucomicrobia, and Planctomycetes. The higher grain yield of wheat was related to the higher class Gammaproteobacteria and Sphingobacteriia abundance, and lower class Acidobacteria and Chloroflexia abundance. In summary, 105 kg ha−1 yr−1 was the optimum rate of N for diversified soil bacterial community and wheat yield for sustainable wheat production in semiarid Loess Plateau of China, whose higher N use efficiency was attributed to the higher phyla Verrucomicrobia and Planctomycetes, and lower Proteobacteria abundance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1175
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31761143004 and 31660373), the Education Department of Gansu Province (2017C-12), and the Department of Science and Technology of Gansu Province (GSPT-2018-56).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


  • 16S rRNA
  • Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Sacteria community
  • Soil properties


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