Wheat yield has impact on soil health

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UK scientists investigating how to control take-all, a fungus that lives in soil and infects wheat roots to cause disease, have discovered that different varieties of wheat have distinct and lasting impacts on the health of the soil in which they are grown.

Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich and Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, examined the effects of growing high and low take-all building susceptible wheat on the make-up of the soil bacterial community associated with the second wheat crop.  To their surprise, the impact on the soil from wheat grown in the first year of the experiment completely overrode any expected influence of the second year crop.

They found that the variety of wheat grown in year one sets the scene in the soil, and what is going on in the soil long after harvesting the initial wheat crop determines the subsequent year’s root health and yield.

Dr Jake Malone, of the John Innes Centre said: “We knew that plants and microbes in the soil interact in a multitude of ways but we didn’t realise just what an impact growing different varieties of the same crop could have on the communities of microbes living in soil.

“We hope to take this further and define exactly how different wheat crops affect these important soil microbes.”