Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Soil Science

First Advisor

Dr. Elisa M. D'Angelo

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark A. Williams

Abstract

The effects of managing soil with organic amendments were examined with respect to soil microbial community dynamics, macroaggregate formation, and plant physio-genetic responses. The objective was to examine the possibility of managing soil microbial communities via soil management, such that the microbial community would provide agronomic benefits. In part one of this research, effects of three amendments (hairy vetch residue, manure, compost) on soil chemical and microbial properties were examined relative to formation of large macroaggregates in three different soils. Vetch and manure promoted fungal proliferation (measured via two biomarkers: fatty acid methyl ester 18:2ω6c and ergosterol) and also stimulated the greatest macroaggregate formation. In part two of this research, effects of soil management (same amendments as above, inorganic N fertilization, organic production) on soil chemical and microbial properties were examined relative to the expression of nitrogen assimilation and defense response genes in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Soil management affected expression of a nitrogen assimilation gene (GS1, glutamine synthetase) and several defense-related genes. The GS1 gene was downregulated with inorganic N fertilization, expression of the pathogenesis-related PR1b gene (which codes for the pathogenesis-related PR1b protein) was increased in plants grown in soil amended with compost, vetch, and N fertilizer, and expression of three other defense-related genes coding for chitinase (ChiB), osmotin (Osm), and β-1,3-glucanase (GluA) were decreased in plants from soil amended with manure and in plants from the organically managed soil. Differential expression of defense-related genes was inversely related to the relative abundance of Gram-negative bacteria. The relative abundance of the 18:1ω7c Gram‑negative bacterial biomarker was greatest in manure treated soil and in organically managed soil (which recieves seasonal manure applications). These treatments also had the lowest expression of ChiB, Osm, and GluA, leading to speculation that manure, through increases in Gram-negative bacteria, may have suppressed populations of soil organisms that induce a defense response in plants, possibly allowing for less-stressed plants. Outcomes of this research may be useful for those interested in developing management strategies for maintaining or improving soil structure as well as those interested in understanding management effects plant physio-genetic responses.