Soil acidification is a global issue that often results in increased aluminum (Al) toxicity. While no-till (NT) management has many benefits regarding sustainability, a discrete zone of acidification often occurs when ammoniacal fertilizers are banded below the seed. The full agroecological consequences of NT stratification and impacts on bacterial communities are largely unknown. Using next-generation sequencing (NGS) and Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt), we characterized the influence of liming amendment and soil stratification on bacterial community composition and predicted function in 2-cm depth increments. Soil depth, pH, DTPA extractable aluminum (DTPA-Al), and KCl extractable Al (KCl-Al) were all significantly correlated with bacterial community structure and function. In soils with the lowest pH and greatest extractable Al, bacterial community was distinct, with highest relative abundance of the Koribacteraceae
family, an indicator of soil degradation. Additionally, aspects of bacterial metabolism and nutrient turnover were impacted in the lowest pH zones, including secondary metabolite, carbohydrate, and energy metabolism. These results suggest that soil stratification (Al and pH) in NT systems has direct impacts on microbial community structure and function, potentially influencing ecosystem services at a highly resolved spatial scale within surface depths relevant to seed germination and emergence.
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