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Fungal Community Shifts in Soils with Varied Cover Crop Treatments and Edaphic Properties

Publication: Scientific Reports

Author: Mara L Cloutier, Ebony Murrell, Mary Barbercheck, Jason Kaye, Denise Finney, Irene García-González, Mary Ann Bruns

Cover cropping is proposed to enhance soil microbial diversity and activity, with cover crop type affecting microbial groups in different ways. We compared fungal community compositions of bulk soils differing by cover crop treatment, season, and edaphic properties in the third year of an organic, conventionally tilled rotation of corn-soybean-wheat planted with winter cover crops. We used Illumina amplicon sequencing fungal assemblages to evaluate effects of nine treatments, each replicated four times, consisting of six single winter cover crop species, a three-species mixture, a six-species mixture, and fallow. Alpha-diversity of fungal communities was not affected by cover crop species identity, function, or diversity. Sampling season influenced community composition as well as genus-level abundances of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Cover crop mixtures, specifically the three-species mixture, had distinct AM fungal community compositions, while cereal rye and forage radish monocultures had unique Core OTU compositions. Soil texture, pH, permanganate oxidizable carbon, and chemical properties including Cu, and P were important variables in models of fungal OTU distributions across groupings. These results showed how fungal composition and potential functions were shaped by cover crop treatment as well as soil heterogeneity.

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