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Tea-soybean intercropping improves tea quality and nutrition uptake by inducing changes of rhizosphere bacterial communities

Sun, L., Dong, X.ORCID: 0000-0002-2647-5747, Wang, Y., Maker, G.ORCID: 0000-0003-1666-9377, Agarwal, M.ORCID: 0000-0002-8781-3850 and Ding, Z. (2022) Tea-soybean intercropping improves tea quality and nutrition uptake by inducing changes of rhizosphere bacterial communities. Microorganisms, 10 (11). Article 2149.

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The positive aspects of the tea plant/legume intercropping system draw attention to the Chinese tea industry for its benefit for soil fertility improvement with low fertilizer input. However, limited information exists as to the roles of intercropped legumes in the rhizosphere microbiome and tea quality. Hereby, soybean was selected as the intercropped plant to investigate its effect on bacterial communities, nutrient competition, tea plant development, and tea quality. Our data showed that intercropped soybean boosted the uptake of nitrogen in tea plants and enhanced the growth of young tea shoots. Nutrient competition for phosphorus and potassium in soil existed between soybeans and tea plants. Moreover, tea/soybean intercropping improved tea quality, manifested by a significantly increased content of non-ester type catechins (C, EGC, EC), total catechins and theanine, and decreased content of ester type catechins (EGCG). Significant differences in rhizobacterial composition were also observed under different systems. At the genus level, the relative abundance of beneficial bacteria, such as Bradyrhizobium, Saccharimonadales and Mycobacterium, was significantly increased with the intercropping system, while the relative abundance of denitrifying bacteria, Pseudogulbenkiania, was markedly decreased. Correlation analysis showed that Pseudogulbenkiania, SBR1031, and Burkholderiaceae clustered together showing a similar correlation with soil physicochemical and tea quality characteristics; however, other differential bacteria showed the opposite pattern. In conclusion, tea/soybean intercropping improves tea quality and nutrition uptake by increasing the relative abundance of beneficial rhizosphere bacteria and decreasing denitrifying bacteria. This study strengthens our understanding of how intercropping system regulate the soil bacterial community to maintain the health of soils in tea plantations and provides the basis for replacing chemical fertilizers and improving the ecosystem in tea plantations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
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