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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (2): 152-164    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0001-9
Research article     
Decomposition of different crop straws and variation in straw-associated microbial communities in a peach orchard, China
ZHANG Hong1,2, CAO Yingfei1, LYU Jialong1,2,*()
1College of Natural Resources and Environment, Northwest A&F University/State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Water and Soil Conservation, Chinese Academy of Science and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling 712100, China
2Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition and the Agri-environment in Northwest China, Ministry of Agriculture, Yangling 712100, China
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Crop residue is a major source of soil organic matter; therefore, application of crop straw to soil contributes to the sustainable development of organic agriculture. To better understand the transformation of crop straw in orchard soils, we investigated the relationship between the characteristics of straw decomposition and functional diversity of associated microbial communities in a long-term peach orchard, China. Mesh bags, each containing 30 g of corn or bean straw, were buried at a soil depth of 20 cm in a 12-year-old peach orchard for 360 d (October 2011-October 2012). Three treatments were applied, i.e., fresh corn straw, fresh corn straw with nitrogen fertilizer (urea, 10.34 g/kg), and fresh bean straw. Changes in straw residual rate, straw water content and soil conditions were monitored after treatment. The functional diversity of straw-associated microbial communities was analyzed by the Biolog-Eco microplate assay. During the decomposition process, straw residual rates did not vary considerably from 10 d (30.4%-45.4%) to 360 d (19.0%-30.3%). Irrespective of nitrogen addition, corn straw decomposed faster than bean straw. Corn straw with nitrogen fertilizer yielded the highest average well color development (AWCD) values (1.11-1.67), followed by corn straw (1.14-1.68) and bean straw (1.18-1.62). Although the AWCD values did not differ significantly among the three treatments, substantial differences occurred across various time periods of the decomposition process (P<0.01). In terms of carbon source utilization, the dominant microbial groups fed mainly on saccharides. Hard-to-decompose substances gradually accumulated in the middle and late stages of straw decomposition. Of the six categories of carbon sources tested, the utilization rate of aromatics was the lowest with corn straw, whereas that of polymers was the lowest with bean straw. Among different treatments, straw residual rate was negatively correlated to soil available phosphorous, soil available potassium and soil temperature (P<0.05), but not to soil water content. In some cases (corn straw with or without nitrogen fertilizer), straw residual rate was negatively correlated to straw water content, amino acid utilization and carboxylic acid utilization, and positively correlated with microbial species richness and evenness (P<0.05). Microbial community associated with corn and bean straw decomposition in soil was respectively dominated by aromatic- and polymer-metabolizing groups during the middle and late stages of this process, which could reduce the stability of microbial community structure and decrease the rate of straw decomposition in the fruit tree orchard.

Key wordsBiolog-Eco microplate      nitrogen fertilizer      microbial community      organic agriculture      straw decomposition     
Received: 30 January 2020      Published: 10 February 2021
Corresponding Authors: LYU Jialong     E-mail:
About author: LYU Jialong (E-mail:
Cite this article:

ZHANG Hong, CAO Yingfei, LYU Jialong. Decomposition of different crop straws and variation in straw-associated microbial communities in a peach orchard, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(2): 152-164.

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Fig. 1 Changes in straw residual rate in the soil of peach orchard during the decomposition process over a 360-d period. FB, fresh bean straw; FC, fresh corn straw; FCN, fresh corn straw+nitrogen fertilizer (urea, 10.34 g/kg). Bars are standard deviation (n=3).
Fig. 2 Changes in straw water content (FB, FC and FCN), soil water content (SWC), and soil temperature (ST) in the peach orchard during the decomposition process over a 360-d period. FB, fresh bean straw; FC, fresh corn straw; FCN, fresh corn straw+nitrogen fertilizer (urea, 10.34 g/kg).
Fig. 3 Changes in average well color development associated with straw decomposition in the peach orchard over a 360-d period. FB, fresh bean straw; FC, fresh corn straw; FCN, fresh corn straw+nitrogen fertilizer; PS, soil of peach orchard. Bars are standard deviation (n=3).
Decomposition time (d) FB FC FCN
10 3.524ab 0.9612bc 1.051b 3.534ab 0.9612ab 1.081ab 3.552ab 0.9598b 1.062ab
90 3.542ab 0.9621b 1.033b 3.572ab 0.9589b 1.062ab 3.640ab 0.9649a 1.074a
180 3.634a 0.9585bc 1.074b 3.653a 0.9594b 1.104a 3.653a 0.9644a 1.081a
270 3.473b 0.9745a 1.012c 3.504ab 0.9649a 1.033ab 3.612ab 0.9599b 1.070ab
360 3.582ab 0.9502d 1.084a 3.534ab 0.9528c 1.030c 3.513ab 0.9593c 1.034ab
Mean 3.551B 0.9613AB 1.051B 3.560A 0.9594B 1.062AB 3.594A 0.9617A 1.064A
Table 1 Shannon's diversity index (H), Simpson's diversity index (D), and McIntosh's equitability (E) of microbial communities associated with straw decomposition in the soil of peach orchard
Straw type Decomposition time (d) Amino acid Carboxylic
Saccharide Polyamine Polymer Aromatic
FB 10 0.50e 0.47e 0.71e 0.40d 0.84d 0.38d
90 1.44b 1.36a 1.84a 1.14b 2.05a 1.64a
180 1.15d 1.02cd 1.49d 0.88c 1.39bc 1.28ab
270 1.80a 1.30ab 1.77ab 1.53a 1.09cd 0.76bcd
360 1.41bc 1.34a 1.54cd 0.99bc 1.25cd 0.75cd
FC 10 0.47d 0.48e 0.67e 0.44d 0.60d 0.43c
90 1.14bc 1.13c 1.66bc 0.87c 1.53abc 1.03abc
180 1.26bc 0.95d 1.22d 0.97bc 1.28bc 1.28ab
270 1.86a 1.36ab 1.70ab 1.43a 1.86a 1.59a
360 1.63a 1.50a 1.84a 1.26ab 1.65ab 0.78bc
FCN 10 0.46e 0.43e 0.61e 0.31e 0.50c 0.26b
90 1.39b 1.23b 1.82ab 0.95b 1.70a 1.26a
180 1.24bcd 0.93cd 1.45cd 0.90bc 1.25ab 1.41a
270 1.42b 1.09bc 1.28d 0.64cd 1.06b 0.46b
360 1.68a 1.48a 1.84a 1.24a 1.66a 0.55b
Table 2 Utilization of six categories of carbon source by microbial community in relation to the decomposition of various straw types at different time periods in the soil of peach orchard
Variable Straw residual rate
Variable Straw residual rate
pH 0.20 0.30 0.26 Saccharide utilization -0.11 -0.21 -0.49
OM 0.23 0.38 0.33 Amino acid utilization -0.43 -0.59* -0.62*
0.20 0.34 0.21 Carboxylic acid
-0.30 -0.58* -0.48
Available phosphorus -0.79** -0.83** -0.81** Polymer utilization 0.19 -0.13 -0.33
Available potassium -0.67** -0.69** -0.67** Aromatic utilization -0.10 0.42 -0.22
Soil temperature -0.74** -0.76** -0.74** Polyamine utilization -0.41 -0.24 -0.41
Straw water content -0.29 -0.63* -0.81** Shannon's diversity index (H) -0.40 0.68** 0.75**
Soil water content -0.37 -0.24 -0.39 Simpson's diversity index (D) 0.00 0.00 0.00
AWCD -0.38 -0.44 0.04 McIntosh's equitability (E) -0.50 0.00 0.59*
Table 3 Pearson's correlations of straw/soil properties and microbial functional diversity with straw residual rate under different straw treatments
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