The cover crop determines the AMF community composition in soil and in roots of maize after a ten-year continuous crop rotation.Sci Total Environ. 2019 Apr 10; 660:913-922.ST
Intensive agricultural practices are responsible for soil biological degradation. By stimulating indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), cover cropping enhances soil health and promotes agroecosystem sustainability. Still, the legacy effects of cover crops (CCs) and the major factors driving the AM fungal community are not well known; neither is the influence of the specific CC. This work describes a field experiment established in Central Spain to test the effect of replacing winter fallow by barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) or vetch (Vicia sativa L.) during the intercropping of maize (Zea mays L.). We examined the community composition of the AMF in the roots and rhizosphere soil associated with the subsequent cash crop after 10 years of cover cropping, using Illumina technology. The multivariate analysis showed that the AMF communities under the barley treatment differed significantly from those under fallow, whereas no legacy effect of the vetch CC was detected. Soil organic carbon, electrical conductivity, pH, Ca and microbial biomass carbon were identified as major factors shaping soil AMF communities. Specific AMF taxa were found to play a role in plant uptake of P, Fe, Zn, Mn, and Cd, which may shed light on the functionality of these taxa. In our conditions, the use of barley as a winter CC appears to be an appropriate choice with respect to promotion of AMF populations and biological activity in agricultural soils with intercropping systems. However, more research on CC species and their legacy effect on the microbial community composition and functionality are needed to guide decisions in knowledge-based agriculture.