Short-term effects of defoliation on the soil microbial community associated with two contrasting Lolium perenne cultivars

L M Macdonald, E Paterson, L A Dawson, A J S McDonald

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Intra-species variation in response to defoliation and soil amendment has been largely neglected in terms of the soil microbial community (SMC). The influence of defoliation and soil fertiliser amendment on the structure of the SMC was assessed with two Lolium perenne cultivars contrasting in ability to accumulate storage reserves. Plant response to defoliation was cultivar specific and depended on the nutrient amendment of the soil. Results suggested a greater ability to alter plant biomass allocation in the low carbohydrate accumulating cultivar (S23) compared to the high carbohydrate cultivar (AberDove) when grown in improved (IMP), but not in unimproved (UNI), soil. Although differences in plant growth parameters were evident, no treatment effects were detected in the size of the active microbial biomass (total phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) 313.8 nmol g(-1) soil +/- 33.9) or proportions of PLFA signature groups. A lower average well colour development (AWCD) of Biolog sole carbon source utilisation profiles (SCSUPs) in defoliated (D) compared to non-defoliated (ND) treatments may be indicative of lower root exudation 1 week following defoliation, as a consequence of lower root non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) concentrations. Within the bacterial community the lower cyclopropyl-to-precursor ratio of PLFAs, and the trans/cis ratio of 16:1w7, in UNI relative to IMP soil treatments indicates lower physiological stress in UNI soils regardless of L perenne cultivar. Discrimination of broad scale SMC structure, measured by PLFA analysis, revealed that soil treatment interacted strongly with cultivar and defoliation. In IMP soils the SMCs discriminated between cultivars while defoliation had little effect. Conversely, in UNI soils defoliation caused a common shift in the SMC associated with both cultivars, causing convergence of overall community structure. Separation of SMC structure along the primary canonical axis correlated most strongly (P < 0.001) with root:shoot ratio (47.6%), confirming that differences in cultivar C-partitioning between treatments were influential in defining the rhizosphere microbial community. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-498
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number3
Early online date20 Dec 2003
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • rhizodeposition
  • microbial community structure
  • phospholipid fatty acids
  • sole carbon source milisation profiles
  • defoliation
  • fatty-acid composition
  • carbohydrate accumulation
  • assimilated carbon
  • upland grasslands
  • rhizosphere
  • ryegrass
  • biomass
  • roots
  • plant
  • management


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