Increasing the size of the microbial biomass altered bacterial community structure which enhances plant phosphorus uptake

Pu Shen, Daniel Vaughan Murphy, Suman J. George, Hazel Lapis-Gaza, Minggang Xu, Deirdre Bridget Gleeson

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    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Agricultural production can be limited by low phosphorus (P) availability, with soil P being constrained by sorption and precipitation reactions making it less available for plant uptake. There are strong links between carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) availability and P cycling within soil P pools, with microorganisms being an integral component of soil P cycling mediating the availability of P to plants. Here we tested a conceptual model that proposes (i) the addition of readily-available organic substrates would increase the size of the microbial biomass thus exhausting the pool of easily-available P and (ii) this would cause the microbial biomass to access P from more recalcitrant pools. In this model it is hypothesised that the size of the microbial population is regulating access to less available P rather than the diversity of organisms contained within this biomass. To test this hypothesis we added mixtures of simple organic compounds that reflect typical root exudates at different C:N ratios to a soil microcosm experiment and assessed changes in soil P pools, microbial biomass and bacterial diversity measures. We report that low C:N ratio (C:N = 12.5:1) artificial root exudates increased the size of the microbial biomass while high C:N ratio (C:N = 50:1) artificial root exudates did not result in a similar increase in microbial biomass. Interestingly, addition of the root exudates did not alter bacterial diversity (measured via univariate diversity indices) but did alter bacterial community structure. Where C, N and P supply was sufficient to support plant growth the increase observed in microbial biomass occurred with a concurrent increase in plant yield.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0166062
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2016


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