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PeerJ. 2019 Aug 19;7:e7501. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7501. eCollection 2019.

Improvement of subsoil physicochemical and microbial properties by short-term fallow practices.

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School of Public Affairs, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
Department of Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering, Technische Universität München, München, Germany.
School of Politics and Public Administration, Soochow University, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.
Collaborative Innovation Center for New-type Urbanization and Social Governance, Soochow University, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China.


Fallow management can improve the soil nutrients in the topsoil and upper subsoil. However, little is known about the effects of short-term (one year) fallowing with different treatments, such as vegetation and fertilization, on subsoil (20-40 cm) properties. We conducted field trials to explore the changes in subsoil properties in response to such treatments in the Yellow River Delta region in China. Different vegetation and fertilization treatments were applied, and we measured the carbon and nitrogen contents, microbial biomass and microbial community structure in the subsoil. Fallowing without manure resulted in the storage of more total nitrogen (16.38%) than fallowing with manure, and meadow vegetation improved the ammonium nitrogen content (45.71%) relative to spontaneous vegetation. Spontaneous vegetation with manure improved the microbial biomass nitrogen (P < 0.05). Although the impact of short-term fallowing on microbial community structure was low, an effect of management was observed for some genera. Blastopirellula, Lysobacter, and Acidobacteria Gp6 showed significant differences among fallow treatments by the end of the year (P < 0.05). Blastopirellula abundance was related to the microbial biomass nitrogen and nitrogen mineralization rate in the subsoil. Manure retained a high abundance of Lysobacter, which may strengthen soil-borne disease resistance. The response of Acidobacteria Gp6 showed that meadow vegetation without manure may not benefit future crops. Although the treatments did not significantly improve microbial community structure in the one-year period, annual fallowing improved certain subsoil properties and increased the number of functional genera, which may enhance crop productivity in the future.


Microbial biomass; Microbial community; Short-term fallow; Subsoil

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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