The acidic nature of red soil commonly found in tea plantations provides unique niches for bacterial growth. These bacteria as well as soil properties are dynamic and vary with agricultural management practices. However, less is known about the influence of manipulation such as cover cropping on bacterial communities in tea plantations. In this study a field trial was conducted to address the short-term effects of soybean intercropping on a bacterial community. Diversity, metabolic potential and structure of the bacterial community were determined through community level physiological profiling and amplicon sequencing approaches. Cover cropping was observed to increase soil EC, available P, K, and microelements Fe, Mn, Cu, and Zn after three months of cultivation. Bacterial functional diversity and metabolic potential toward six carbon source categories also increased in response to cover cropping. Distinct bacterial communities among treatments were revealed, and the most effective biomarkers, such as Acidobacteriaceae
, and Sphingomonadaceae,
were identified in cover cropping. Members belonging to these families are considered as organic matter decomposers and/or plant growth promoting bacteria. We provided the first evidence that cover cropping boosted both copiotrophs (Proteobacteria
) and oligotrophs (Acidobacteria
), with potentially increased functional stability, facilitated nutrient cycling, and prospective benefits to plants in the tea plantation.
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