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Soil and Tillage Research
Volume 199, 2020, 104599

Reduced co-occurrence and ion-specific preferences of soil microbial hub species after ten years of irrigation with brackish water

Yaxian Hua, Xianwen Lib, Menggui Jinc, Rui Wanga, Junying Chenb, Shengli Guoa

State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China.


Irrigation with brackish water has been widely applied in many regions of the world as an efficient alternative to conserve freshwater resources. Although it has limited soluble salt content, brackish water can alter the physio-chemical properties and microbial communities of soil over time. In this study, a cotton field that utilized drip irrigation with brackish water for 10 years (Brackish field) was compared with a nearby field that utilized drip irrigation with fresh water (Fresh field). Our results show the following: 1) After 10 years, the Brackish field was saltier with a greater electrical conductivity and sodium adsorption ratio, as well as less soil organic carbon content when compared with the Fresh field. 2) The more polarized distribution of the most abundant operational taxonomic unit (OTU) was observed in the Brackish field, accompanied by significantly smaller beta diversity, a less clustered network and fewer co-occurrences (edges) within the soil microbial community compared with the less salty Fresh field, altogether demonstrating that long-term brackish irrigation was very likely to form a less diverse and more stressed environment for soil microbes to co-exist. 3) The mismatches between the edge ranking of hub species and the ranking of relative abundances highlight that the predominant abundances of salt tolerant species from genera Acinetobacter and Pseudomonas may help cotton to grow better in the saline soil but may not help to stabilize soil microbial communities. In future studies, sophisticated sampling protocols with high time-resolution are required to fully capture the possible soil microbial responses to event-sensitive ion redistributions across cotton rows as well during repeated irrigation cycles.

Keywords: Brackish water, Drip irrigation, Secondary salinization, Soil soluble salts, soil microbial communities.

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