Shifts in soil microbial community, soil enzymes and crop yield under peanut/maize intercropping with reduced nitrogen levels
Abstract A field experiment with five nitrogen (N) application rates (120, 140, 160, 180, 200kghm −2 ) under peanut/maize intercropping regime was conducted to evaluate cropping patterns and N application rates on yield, soil enzyme activities, and rhizosphere microbial community structure. The field experiment showed that the land equivalent ratio (LER) in maize/peanut intercropping system was not decreased as compared with the monoculture pattern, though the total N supply was approximately reduced by 20%. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) results showed that the treatments of intercropping (IMP100%, IMP80% and IMP60%) increased the abundance of Rhizobium hainanense , Rhizobium leguminosarum and Frankia which are associated with nitrogen fixation as compared to monoculture pattern (M100% and P100%). The qPCR results revealed that the copy number of nifH was significantly higher in the treatments of intercropping than in monoculture pattern. The result was also consistent with the T-RFLP analysis. In conclusion, peanut and maize under the condition of intercropping can promote the population of microorganisms associated with nitrogen-fixing in the rhizospheric soil. Our results provide a theoretical basis and technical support to soil N utilization, development of low carbon agriculture and protection of farmland ecological environment. Highlights Intercropping at low supply of nitrogen enhances soil enzyme activities. Intercropping increased the abundance of nitrogen fixing bacteria. Copy number of nifH gene was significantly higher in the intercropping. Intercropping reduced 20% nitrogen supply as compared with the sole cropping.
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