Soil-plant properties differentially impact microbiome networks in a
cover crop biodiversity experiment
Cover crops may influence soil health and functioning. However, little
is known about the role of belowground root architectural traits in
linking cover crop diversity with rhizosphere soil ecosystem properties.
We hypothesize that cover crop diversity may improve root traits, which
in return, could influence its effects on essential indicators of soil
physicochemical heterogeneity, such as the composition of soil
aggregate-size classes and nutrients, the soil organic matter (SOM) and
soil organic carbon (SOC) contents, and microbial communities. We
studied the impact of cover plant diversity on root traits, soil
properties and microbial communities. The four soil aggregate-size
classes, such as large macro- (>2000μm), small macro-
(<2000-500μm), meso- (<500-250 μm), and
micro-aggregates (<250 μm) were separated by the dry sieving.
Root traits such as surface area (cm2) and length (cm) were quantified
by image analysis using Winrhizo. The soil nutrient, SOM, and SOC
contents were determined by standard methods. Plant diversity improved
productivity, root architectural traits, composition of soil
aggregate-size classes and nutrients, SOM and SOC contents, composition
and networking of microbial communities. Our results suggest that
competition among plant roots in species-rich than poor communities may
improve rhizosphere soil carbon storage, composition of soil
aggregate-size classes and microbial communities.