Excessive phosphate fertilizer use can reduce microbial functions critical to crop health

March 18, 2019

St. Paul, MN (March 2019)--Phosphorus is crucial for plant growth--with it, plants can acquire, transfer, and store the energy that helps them flourish in full health. Without it, plants flounder: they're stunted, discolored, and produce low yields. For this reason, farmers and gardeners often apply phosphate fertilizers (P-fertilizer) to increase the amount of phosphorous in their soil. However, a recent study finds that excessive P-fertilizer may actually hurt the plants it is trying to help by altering the composition and function of the microbes in the soil.

In a study published in the fully open access Phytobiomes Journal, a team of scientists led by Drs Terrence Bell and Jenny Kao-Kniffin at Penn State University set out to determine if nutrient history changed the function of soil microorganisms--that is, could multiple generations of nutrient application and microbial transfer separate the impacts of nutrients and soil microorganisms on crop health. The answer seems to be yes, and that soil treated with high amounts of phosphate can result in poorer plant performance, but even more intriguing, it appears that the soil microorganisms from this conditioned soil can negatively impact plant yield.

To arrive at this conclusion, the team grew four generations of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) in soil with different concentrations of P-fertilizer (low to high), and after each generation, a small amount of soil, including soil-borne microorganisms, from pots containing the top-growing plants was transferred to the next generation. They then applied the microorganisms selected under each nutrient condition to all other nutrient conditions to determine whether nutrient history changed the function of soil microorganisms, even when a particular nutrient amendment (e.g. high inorganic P-fertilizer) was no longer applied.

The team found that alfalfa plants grown in soil treated with high levels of inorganic P-fertilizer, or with the microbes from this treatment but in low P-fertilizer, performed worse than alfalfa plants grown in soil treated with lower or no levels of P-fertilizer. Using high-throughput DNA sequencing, they saw that the composition of microorganisms grown under high inorganic P was distinct from other treatments.

These findings require additional study, but for now they suggest that excessive P-fertilizer could have lasting negative effects on crop productivity by reducing the microorganisms (or how they function) that are critical to crop health.
-end-
More details about this study can be found in "Medicago sativa has reduced biomass and nodulation when grown with soil microbiomes conditioned to high phosphorous inputs," published March 6, 2019 in Phytobiomes Journal Volume 2, Number 4.

American Phytopathological Society

Related Microorganisms Articles from Brightsurf:

A more resistant material against microorganisms is created to restore cultural heritage
The study was performed by a research team at the University Research Institute into Fine Chemistry and Nanochemistry at the University of Cordoba and Seville's Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of the Spanish National Research Council

NYUAD study finds gene targets to combat microorganisms binding to underwater surfaces
A group of synthetic biologists at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) have identified new genetic targets that could lead to safe, biologically-based approaches to combat marine biofouling - the process of sea-based microorganisms, plants, or algae binding to underwater surfaces.

Less flocking behavior among microorganisms reduces the risk of being eaten
When algae and bacteria with different swimming gaits gather in large groups, their flocking behaviour diminishes, something that may reduce the risk of falling victim to aquatic predators.

Are vultures spreaders of microbes that put human health at risk?
A new analysis published in IBIS examines whether bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that are present in wild vultures cause disease in the birds, and whether vultures play a role in spreading or preventing infectious diseases to humans and other animal species.

Timing key in understanding plant microbiomes
Oregon State University researchers have made a key advance in understanding how timing impacts the way microorganisms colonize plants, a step that could provide farmers an important tool to boost agricultural production.

Advances in the production of minor ginsenosides using microorganisms and their enzymes
Advances in the Production of Minor Ginsenosides Using Microorganisms and Their Enzymes - BIO Integration https://bio-integration.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/bioi20200007.pdf Announcing a new article publication for BIO Integration journal.

Study shows how microorganisms survive in harsh environments
In northern Chile's Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, microorganisms are able to eke out an existence by extracting water from the rocks they colonize.

Microorganisms in parched regions extract needed water from colonized rocks
Cyanobacteria living in rocks in Chile's Atacama Desert extract water from the minerals they colonize and, in doing so, change the phase of the material from gypsum to anhydrite.

Verticillium wilt fungus killing millions of trees is actually an army of microorganisms
A research project studied the microbiome of olive tree roots and concluded that Verticillium wilt is fueled by a community of microorganisms that team up to attack plants, thus reassessing the way this problem is dealt with

New drug formulation could treat Candida infections
With antimicrobial resistance (AMR) increasing around the world, new research led by the University of Bristol has shown a new drug formulation could possibly be used in antifungal treatments against Candida infections.

Read More: Microorganisms News and Microorganisms Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.