2022 journal article
Microbial processes and community structure as influenced by cover crop residue type and placement during repeated dry-wet cycles
APPLIED SOIL ECOLOGY, 172.
Soil microorganisms play a critical role in cover crop (CC) residue decomposition and nutrient cycling in agroecosystems. However, the impact of CC residue management and dry-wet cycles on soil and residue microbiota and their potential ecosystem functions is largely unknown. To fill these knowledge gaps, an incubation experiment was conducted with two CC residues, crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) and cereal rye (Secale cereale L.), and two residue placements (incorporated vs surface-applied). Each CCs by placement treatment was subjected to four dry-wet cycles (20-d each) for a total of 80-d. Crimson clover residues had higher water storage capacities than cereal rye, and the rate at which water was lost from surface-applied CC residues increased after each successive wetting event. Rapid drying of surface-applied CC residues quickly suppressed CO2 fluxes, which increased immediately upon rewetting. Incorporated CC residues maintained water content for longer duration than surface-applied residues and showed greater colonization by soil prokaryotes and saprophytic fungi. Thus, significantly more C and N were mobilized from incorporated residues by 80-d than from surface-applied residues (p < 0.05). Due to differences in residue chemistry, CC residue types have a stronger impact on soil N levels than residue placement. Thus, residue chemistry strongly influenced soil prokaryotic and fungal diversity, community structure, and functionality. While crimson clover-amended soils (N-rich environments) were dominated by copiotrophs, oligotrophs dominated cereal rye-amended soils (N-poor soil environments). On the other hand, residue placement may have a greater effect than residue type in determining residue microbiota, particularly prokaryotes. Based on these findings, we can conclude that the effect of residue placement on C and N mineralization during repeated dry-wet cycles is primarily explained by differences in water dynamics between incorporated and surface-applied CC residues.