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Impact of long-term organic and mineral fertilization on rhizosphere metabolites, root-microbial interactions and plant health of lettuce

Abstract: Fertilization management can affect plant performance and soil microbiota, involving still poorly understood rhizosphere interactions. We hypothesized that fertilization practice exerts specific effects on rhizodeposition with consequences for recruitment of rhizosphere microbiota and plant performance. To address this hypothesis, we conducted a minirhizotron experiment using lettuce as model plant and field soils with contrasting properties from two long-term field experiments (HUB-LTE: loamy sand, DOK-LTE: silty loam) with organic and mineral fertilization history. Increased relative abundance of plant-beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and fungal pathotrophs were characteristic of the rhizospheres in the organically managed soils (HU-org; BIODYN2). Accordingly, defense-related genes were systemically expressed in shoot tissues of the respective plants. As a site-specific effect, high relative occurrence of the fungal lettuce pathogen Olpidium sp. (76–90%) was recorded in the rhizosphere, both under long-term organic and mineral fertilization at the DOK-LTE site, likely supporting Olpidium infection due to a lower water drainage potential compared to the sandy HUB-LTE soils. However, plant growth depressions and Olpidium infection were exclusively recorded in the BIODYN2 soil with organic fertilization history. This was associated with a drastic (87–97%) reduction in rhizosphere abundance of potentially plant-beneficial microbiota (PseudomonadaceaeMortierella elongata) and reduced concentrations of the antifungal root exudate benzoate, known to be increased in presence of Pseudomonas spp. In contrast, high relative abundance of Pseudomonadaceae (Gammaproteobacteria) in the rhizosphere of plants grown in soils with long-term mineral fertilization (61–74%) coincided with high rhizosphere concentrations of chemotactic dicarboxylates (succinate, malate) and a high C (sugar)/N (amino acid) ratio, known to support the growth of Gammaproteobacteria. This was related with generally lower systemic expression of plant defense genes as compared with organic fertilization history. Our results suggest a complex network of belowground interactions among root exudates, site-specific factors and rhizosphere microbiota, modulating the impact of fertilization management with consequences for plant health and performance.

Windisch S., Sommermann L., Babin D., Chowdhury P. S., Grosch R., Moradtalab N., Walker F., Höglinger B., El-Hasan A., Armbruster W., Nesme J., Sörensen S. J., Schellenberg I., Geistlinger J., Smalla K., Rothballer M., Ludewig U., Neumann G. 2021. Impact of long-term organic and mineral fertilization on rhizosphere metabolites, root-microbial interactions and plant health of lettuce. Frontiers in Microbiology 11, 597745.