To follow the hypothesis that agricultural management practices affect structure and function of the soil microbiome regarding soil health and plant-beneficial traits, high-throughput (HT) metagenome analyses were performed on Chernozem soil samples from a long-term field experiment designated LTE-1 carried out at Bernburg-Strenzfeld (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany). Metagenomic DNA was extracted from soil samples representing the following treatments: (i) plough tillage with standard nitrogen fertilization and use of fungicides and growth regulators, (ii) plough tillage with reduced nitrogen fertilization (50%), (iii) cultivator tillage with standard nitrogen fertilization and use of fungicides and growth regulators, and (iv) cultivator tillage with reduced nitrogen fertilization (50%). Bulk soil (BS), as well as root-affected soil (RS), were considered for all treatments in replicates. HT-sequencing of metagenomic DNA yielded approx. 100 Giga bases (Gb) of sequence information. Taxonomic profiling of soil communities revealed the presence of 70 phyla, whereby Proteobacteria
feature abundances of more than 1%. Functional microbiome profiling uncovered, i.a., numerous potential plant-beneficial, plant-growth-promoting and biocontrol traits predicted to be involved in nutrient provision, phytohormone synthesis, antagonism against pathogens and signal molecule synthesis relevant in microbe–plant interaction. Neither taxonomic nor functional microbiome profiling based on single-read analyses revealed pronounced differences regarding the farming practices applied. Soil metagenome sequences were assembled and taxonomically binned. The ten most reliable and abundant Metagenomically Assembled Genomes (MAGs) were taxonomically classified and metabolically reconstructed. Importance of the phylum Thaumarchaeota
for the analyzed microbiome is corroborated by the fact that the four corresponding MAGs were predicted to oxidize ammonia (nitrification), thus contributing to the cycling of nitrogen, and in addition are most probably able to fix carbon dioxide. Moreover, Thaumarchaeota
and several bacterial MAGs also possess genes with predicted functions in plant–growth–promotion. Abundances of certain MAGs (species resolution level) responded to the tillage practice, whereas the factors compartment (BS vs. RS) and nitrogen fertilization only marginally shaped MAG abundance profiles. Hence, soil management regimes promoting plant-beneficial microbiome members are very likely advantageous for the respective agrosystem, its health and carbon sequestration and accordingly may enhance plant productivity. Since Chernozem soils are highly fertile, corresponding microbiome data represent a valuable reference resource for agronomy in general.
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