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Phosphorus availability and planting patterns regulate soil microbial effects on plant performance in a semiarid steppe
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Li YW, Lu XM, Su JS, Bai YF*
PubYear : 2023
Volume :   Issue : 
Publication Name : Annals of Botany
Page number : DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcad012
Abstract : 

Background and Aims

Growing evidence has suggested that plant responses to model soil microorganisms are context dependent; however, few studies have investigated the effects of whole soil microbial communities on plant performance in different abiotic and biotic conditions. To address this, we examined how soil phosphorus (P) availability and different planting patterns regulate soil microbial effects on the growth of two native plant species in a semiarid steppe.


We carried out a glasshouse experiment to explore the effects of the whole indigenous soil microbiota on the growth and performance of Leymus chinensis and Cleistogenes squarrosa using soil sterilization with different soil P availabilities and planting patterns (monoculture and mixture). Transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) was used to explain the potential molecular mechanisms of the soil microbial effects on C. squarrosa.

Key Results

The soil sterilization treatment significantly increased the biomass of L. chinensis and C. squarrosa in both monoculture and mixture conditions, which indicated that the soil microbiota had negative growth effects on both plants. The addition of P neutralized the negative microbial effects for both L. chinensis and C. squarrosa, whereas the mixture treatment amplified the negative microbial effects on L. chinensis but alleviated them on C. squarrosa. Transcriptomic analysis from C. squarrosa roots underscored that the negative soil microbial effects were induced by the upregulation of defence genes. The P addition treatment resulted in significant decreases in the number of differentially expressed genes attributable to the soil microbiota, and some defence genes were downregulated.


Our results underline that indigenous soil microbiota have negative effects on the growth of two dominant plant species from a semiarid steppe, but their effects are highly dependent on the soil P availability and planting patterns. They also indicate that defence genes might play a key role in controlling plant growth responses to the soil microbiota.

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