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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 793, 2021, 148664

Balanced fertilization over four decades has sustained soil microbial communities and improved soil fertility and rice productivity in red paddy soil

Jia Lin Wanga,c, Kai Lou Liub, Xue Qiang Zhaoa,c, Hao Qing Zhanga,c, Dong Lia, Jiao Jiao Lia,c, Ren Fang Shena,c

State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China.

Abstract

The influence of long-term fertilization on soil microbial communities is critical for revealing the association between belowground microbial flora and aboveground crop productivity—a relationship of great importance to food security, environmental protection, and ecosystem functions. Here, we examined shifts in soil chemical properties, microbial communities, and the nutrient uptake and yield of rice subjected to different chemical and organic fertilization treatments over a 40-year period in red paddy soil. Ten different treatments were used: a control without fertilizer, and applications of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), NP, NK, PK, NPK, double NPK, or NPK plus manure. Compared with the effects of withholding one or two nutrients (N, P, or K), the balanced application of chemical NPK and organic fertilizers markedly improved soil nutrient status and rice yield. This improvement of soil fertility and rice yield was not associated with bacterial, archaeal, or fungal alpha diversities. The bacterial abundance and community structure and archaeal abundance effectively explained the variation in rice yield, whereas those of fungi did not. The community structure of bacteria and archaea, but not that of fungi, was correlated with soil properties. Among various soil properties, P was the key factor influencing rice yield and soil microbial communities because of the extremely low content of soil available P. Seven keystones at the operational taxonomic unit level were identified: four archaea (belonging to Thermoplasmata, Methanosaeta, Bathyarchaeia, and Nitrososphaeraceae) and three bacteria (in Desulfobacteraceae and Acidobacteriales). These keystones, which were mainly related to soil C and N transformation and pH, may work cooperatively to influence rice yield by regulating soil fertility. Our results collectively suggest that four decades of balanced fertilization has sustained the bacterial and archaeal abundances, bacterial community structure, and keystones, which potentially contribute to soil fertility and rice yield in red paddy soil.

Keywords: Chemical fertilizer, Organic fertilizer, Microbial community, Rice yield, Nutrient uptake, Keystone.

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