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
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.
Received: 30 January 2020
Published: 10 February 2021
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.
Fig. 1Changes 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. 2Changes 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. 3Changes 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)
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
Decomposition time (d)
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
Straw residual rate FCN
Straw residual rate
Amino acid utilization
Carboxylic acid utilization
Straw water content
Shannon's diversity index (H)
Soil water content
Simpson's diversity index (D)
McIntosh's equitability (E)
Table 3 Pearson's correlations of straw/soil properties and microbial functional diversity with straw residual rate under different straw treatments
Avrahami S, Liesack W, Conrad R. 2003. Effects of temperature and fertilizer on activity and community structure of soil ammonia oxidizers. Environmental Microbiology, 5(8):691-705.
Bao S D. 2007. Soil Agrochemical Analysis (3rd ed.). Beijing: Chinese Agriculture Press, 30-113. (in Chinese)
Baumannn K, Marschner P, Smernik R J, et al. 2009. Residue chemistry and microbial community structure during decomposition of eucalypt, wheat and vetch residues. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 41(9):1966-1975.
Cao Y F, Zhang H, Liu K, et al. 2015. Organic acids variation in plant residues and soils among agricultural treatments. Agronomy Journal, 107(6):2171-2180.
Castro H F, Classen A T, Austin E E, et al. 2010. Soil microbial community responses to multiple experimental climate change drivers. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 76:999-1007.
Chang Q R, Yan X, Lei M, et al. 2001. The discussion on Lou soil position in soil classification. Journal of Northwest A&F University (Natural Science Edition), 29(3):48-52. (in Chinese)
Chen L, Zhang J B, Zhao B Z, et al. 2014. Carbon mineralization and microbial attributes in straw-amended soils as affected by moisture levels. Pedosphere, 24(2):167-177.
Chen Q H, Feng Y, Zhang Y P, et al. 2012. Short-term responses of nitrogen mineralization and microbial community to moisture regimes in greenhouse vegetable soils. Pedosphere, 22:263-272.
Chen R R, Senbayram M, Blagodatsky S, et al. 2014. Soil C and N availability determine the priming effect: microbial N mining and stoichiometric decomposition theories. Global Change Biology, 20(7):2356-2367.
Chen X F, Li Z P, Liu M, et al. 2015. Microbial community and functional diversity associated with different aggregate fractions of a paddy soil fertilized with organic manure and/or NPK fertilizer for 20 years. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 15(2):292-301.
Cheng C G, Zhao D Y, Lv D G, et al. 2014. Effects of plant-derived organic materials and humification driving forces on soil microbial community diversity in orchards. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Fertilizer, 20(4):913-922. (in Chinese)
Cusack D F, Torn M S, Mcdowell W H, et al. 2010. The response of heterotrophic activity and carbon cycling to nitrogen additions and warming in two tropical soils. Global Change Biology, 16(9):2555-2572.
Ding X L, He H B, Bai Z, et al. 2008. Fate and utilization of crop residues and their effect on soil nitrogen turnover. Chinese Journal of Soil Science, 39(6):1454-1461. (in Chinese)
Feng X, Simpson M J. 2009. Temperature and substrate controls on microbial phospholipid fatty acid composition during incubation of grassland soils contrasting in organic matter quality. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 41(4):804-812.
Geisseler D, Horwath W R, Scow K M. 2011. Soil moisture and plant residue addition interact in their effect on extracellular enzyme activity. Pedobiologia, 54(2):71-78.
Guo J F, Yang Y S, Chen G S, et al. 2006. A review on litter decomposition in forest ecosystem. Scientia Silvae Sinicae, 42(4):93-100. (in Chinese)
Han J Z, Kuang E J, Chi F Q, et al. 2016. Effects of different depths of straw returned to soil on biological characteristics. Chinese Journal of Soil Science, 47(5):1154-1161. (in Chinese)
Hoyle F C, Murphy D V, Brookes P C. 2008, Microbial response to the addition of glucose in low-fertility soils. Biology Fertility of Soils, 44:571-579.
Ibrahim M, Cao C G, Zhan M, et al. 2015. Changes of CO2 emission and labile organic carbon as influenced by rice straw and different water regimes. International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 12(1):263-274.
Jia J X, Li Z P, Che Y P. 2010. Effects of glucose addition on N transformations in paddy soils with a gradient of organic C content in subtropical China. Scientia Agricultura Sinica, 43(8):1617-1624. (in Chinese)
Jia X, Dong S M, Luo C J. 2013. Effects of Biolog Eco-plates incubation time on analysis results in microbial ecology researches. Journal of Basic Science and Engineering, 21(1):10-19. (in Chinese)
Ju X T, Liu X J, Zhang F S. 2002. Nitrogen transformation and fate in soil under the conditions of mixed application of urea with DCD or different organic material. Scientia Agricultura Sinica, 35(2):181-186. (in Chinese)
Kemmit S J, Lanyon C V, Waite I S, et al. 2008. Mineralization of native soil organic matter is not regulated by the size, activity or composition of the soil microbial biomass-A new perspective. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 40(1):61-73.
Kruse J, Kisse D E, Cabrera M L. 2004. Effects of drying and rewetting on carbon and nitrogen mineralization in soils and incorporated residues. Nutrient Cycling Agroecosystems, 69:247-256.
Kuang E J, Chi F Q, Zhang J M, et al. 2010. Decomposed regularity of organic materials under different condition in black soil. Chinese Agricultural Science Bulletin, 26(7):152-155. (in Chinese)
Lao X R, Sun W H, Wang Z. 2003. Effect of matching use of straw and chemical fertilizer on soil fertility. Acta Pedologica Sinica, 40(4):623-629. (in Chinese)
Li L J, Zhu-Barker X, Ye R Z, et al. 2018. Soil microbial biomass size and soil carbon influence the priming effect from carbon inputs depending on nitrogen availability. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 119:41-49.
Li X G, Jia B, Lv J T, et al. 2017. Nitrogen fertilization decreases the decomposition of soil organic matter and plant residues in planted soils. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 112:47-55.
Li Z Q, Li D D, Ma L, et al. 2019. Effects of straw management and nitrogen application rate on soil organic matter fractions and microbial properties in North China Plain. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 19(2):618-628.
Liu W, Pan N, Chen W. 2012. Effect of veterinary oxytetracy-cline on functional diversity of soil microbial community. Plant Soil and Environment, 58:295-301.
Liu Y, Gao X H, Yao Y C. 2008. Research on nutrient effect of different botanical organic fertilizers on young pear plant (Pyrus pyrifolia (Burm. f.) Nakai) in sandy soil. Scientia Agricultura Sinica, 41(8):2546-2553. (in Chinese)
Liu Y, Li M, Zheng J W, et al. 2014. Short-term responses of microbial community and functioning to experimental CO2 enrichment and warming in a Chinese paddy field. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 77:58-68.
Lu S B, Zhang Y J, Chen C R, et al. 2013. Analysis of functional differences between soil bacterial communities in three different types of forest soils based on Biolog fingerprint. Acta Pedologica Sinica, 50(3):618-623. (in Chinese)
Merilä P, Malmivaara-Lämsä M, Spetz P, et al. 2010. Soil organic matter quality as a link between microbial community structure and vegetation composition along a successional gradient in a boreal forest. Applied Soil Ecology, 46(2):259-267.
Neilson J W, Quade J, Ortiz M, et al. 2012. Life at the hyperarid margin: novel bacterial diversity in arid soils of the Atacama Desert, Chile. Extremophiles, 16(3):553-566.
Pausch J, Kuzyakov Y. 2012. Soil organic carbon decomposition from recently added and older sources estimated by δ 13C values of CO2 and organic matter . Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 55:40-47.
Qian X, Gu J, Sun W, et al. 2014. Changes in the soil nutrient levels, enzyme activities, microbial community function, and structure during apple orchard maturation. Applied Soil Ecology, 77:18-25.
Song L, Hang S, Lu J W, et al. 2015. Study on characteristics of decomposing and nutrients releasing of different proportional mixture of rape straw and Chinese milk vetch in rice field. Soils and Fertilizers Sciences in China, 3:100-104. (in Chinese)
Sun X Y, Zhang X, Zhang P, et al. 2018. Effects of temperature, moisture and organic material on organic carbon transformation and microbial community diversity of soil in apple orchard. Chinese Journal of Soil Science, 49(4):822-833. (in Chinese)
Tian G, Olimah J A, Adeoye G O, et al. 2000. Regeneration of earthworm populations in a degraded soil by natural,planted fallows under humid tropical conditions. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 64(1):222-228.
Tian G, Badejo M A, Okoh A I, et al. 2007. Effects of residue quality and climate on plant residue decomposition and nutrient release along the transect from humid forest to Sahel of West Africa. Biogeochemistry, 86(2):217-229.
Tian S Y, Li H M, Chen J L et al., 2020. Differences of nutrient contents in residual wheat and maize straws and their relationship with microbial community composition in Fluvo-Aquic soil. Soils, 52(3):1-9. (in Chinese)
Villegas P G, Blair G J, Lefroy R. 2000. Measurement of decomposition and associated nutrient release from straw (Oryza sativa L.) of different rice varieties using a perfusion system. Plant and Soil, 223:1-11.
Wang J Y, Wang M L, Zhang F H. 2016. Soil microbial properties under typical halophytic vegetation communities in arid regions. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 36(8):2363-2372. (in Chinese)
Wang X D, Chen X N, Wang C X, et al. 2009. Decomposition of corn stalk in cropland with different fertility. Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 25(10):252-257. (in Chinese)
Wang X Y, Sun B. 2012. Factors affecting change of microbial community during plant residue decomposition: A Review. Soils, 44(3):353-359. (in Chinese)
Wang X Y, Jiang Y Q, Sui Y Y, et al. 2012. Changes of microbial communities during decomposition of wheat and maize straw: analysis by Biolog. Acta Pedologica Sinica, 49(5):1003-1011. (in Chinese)
Witt C, Cassman K G, Olk D C, et al. 2000. Crop rotation and residue management effects on carbon sequestration, nitrogen cycling and productivity of irrigated rice systems. Plant and Soil, 225(1):263-278.
Wu J S, Zhang J C, Qian J F, et al. 2013. Intercropping grasses improve soil organic carbon content and microbial community functional diversities in Chinese hickory stands. Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 29(20):111-117. (in Chinese)
Wu Y P, Peng Q A, Muhammad S, et al. 2014. Research progress of effect of straw returning on soil microorganism. Chinese Agricultural Science Bulletin, 30(29):175-183. (in Chinese)
Zabinski C A, Gannon J E. 1997. Effects of recreational impacts on soil microbial communities. Environmental Management, 21(2):233-238.
Zhang A L, Zhang J N, Hong J, et al. 2018. Characteristics and interaction of soil nematodes and microbial communities in Stipa grandis grassland. Acta Agrestia Sinica, 26(1):77-84. (in Chinese)
Zhang H, Cao Y F, Xu W X, et al. 2019. Decomposition of plant straws and accompanying variation of microbial communities. Acta Pedologica Sinica, 56(6):1482-1492. (in Chinese)
Zhang H H, Tang M, Chen H. 2009. Characterization of soil microbial community function and structure in rhizosphere of typical tree species and the meaning for environmental indication in the Loess Plateau. Environmental Science, 30(8):2432-2437. (in Chinese)
Zhang W, Wang Z F, Wang H, et al. 2007. Organic carbon mineralization affected by water content and plant residues in purple paddy soil. Plant Nutrition & Fertilizer Science, 13(6):1013-1019. (in Chinese)
Zhen L S, Gu J, Hu T, et al. 2015. Microbial community structure and metabolic characteristics of oil-contaminated soil in the loess plateau. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 35(17):5703-5710. (in Chinese)
Zhou G X, Chen L, Zhang C Z, et al. 2015. Effects of temperature and moisture on microbial community function responsible for straw decomposition. Soils, 47(5):911-918. (in Chinese)