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Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Vol. 82, 2015, Pages: 119–126

The combined effects of cover crops and symbiotic microbes on phosphatase gene and organic phosphorus hydrolysis in subtropical orchard soils

Hang Cui, Yang Zhou, Zhenhong Gu, Honghui Zhu, Shenlei Fu, Qing Yao

College of Horticulture, South China Agricultural University, Guanghzou, 510642, PR China.


P deficiency is a major obstacle for crop production in subtropical red soils in South China, and the hydrolysis of organic P (Po) is of great significance in these soils due to the immobilization of P by Fe and Al. Cover cropping in orchards and symbiotic microbial inoculation are considered to improve soil quality, including P status, however, their effects on the hydrolysis of Po is little known. In this study, five soil managements were established in a guava orchard in South China for two and a half years, including clean culture (CC), cover cropping with Paspalum natatu (PN), PN with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal inoculation (PNA), cover cropping with Stylosanthes guianensis (SG), SG with rhizobial inoculation (SGR). Soil chemical, biochemical and microbial properties were analyzed. Results indicate that soil pH and SOM content tended to increase following cover cropping alone or with microbial inoculation. Po content was significantly elevated in PNA. Po fractionation revealed that cover cropping alone or with microbial inoculation significantly affected the contents of moderately labile Po (MLPo) and moderately resistant Po (FAPo). Enzyme assay indicated that cover cropping with microbial inoculation increased the activities of acidic phosphomonoesterase (ACP), neutral phosphomonoesterase (NP) and alkaline phosphomonoesterase (ALP), with ALP the most sensitive, although ACP activity dominated in red soils. Correlation analysis suggested a significantly positive relationship between ALP activity and MLPo or FAPo. PCR-DGGE profile of the alp-harboring bacterial community showed that cover cropping with S. guianensis and mycorrhizal inoculation to P. natatu promoted the bacterial diversity and/or species richness. For almost all the measured parameters, PN and SG were comparable, however, PNA was superior to SGR, indicating the stronger additive effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus than that of rhizobia. Cat-PCA indicated that MLPo was the most influential factor on phosphomonoesterase. In general, this study suggests that, in subtropical orchards with red soil, cover cropping with microbial inoculation can improve the Po hydrolysis via the promoted alp-harboring bacterial community and then ALP activity. Our results also suggest that the combination of P. natatu and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus is better than S. guianensis and rhizobia, which possesses practical significance for sustainable production in these orchards.

Keywords: alp-harboring bacterial community; Cover cropping; Phosphomonoesterase; Po fractionation; Subtropical orchards; Symbiotic microbial inoculation.

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