Spatial patterns of microbial denitrification genes change in response to poultry litter placement and cover crop species in an agricultural soil

Holly Bowen, Jude E. Maul, Hanna Poffenbarger, Steven Mirsky, Michel Cavigelli, Stephanie Yarwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Subsurface-banding manure and winter cover cropping are farming techniques designed to reduce N loss. Little is known, however, about the effects of these management tools on denitrifying microbial communities and the greenhouse gases they produce. Abundances of bacterial (16S), fungal (ITS), and denitrification genes (nirK, nirS, nosZ-I, and nosZ-II) were measured in soil samples collected from a field experiment testing the combination of cereal rye and hairy vetch cover cropping with either surface-broadcasted or subsurface-banded poultry litter. The spatial distribution of genes was mapped to identify potential denitrifier hotspots. Spatial distribution maps showed increased 16S rRNA genes around the manure band, but no denitrifier hotspots. Soil depth and nitrate concentration were the strongest drivers of gene abundance, but bacterial gene abundance also differed by gene, soil characteristics, and management methods. Gene copy number of nirK was higher under cereal rye than hairy vetch and positively associated with soil moisture, while nirS gene copies did not differ between cover crop species. The nirS gene copies increased when manure was surface broadcasted compared to subsurface banded and was positively associated with pH. Soil moisture and pH were positively correlated to nosZ-II but not to nosZ-I gene copy numbers. We observed stronger correlations between nosZ-I and nirS, and nosZ-II and nirK gene copies compared to the reverse pairings. Agricultural management practices differentially affect spatial distributions of genes coding for denitrification enzymes, leading to changes in the composition of the denitrifying community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-781
Number of pages13
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cover cropping
  • Denitrification
  • Functional genes
  • Hotspot
  • Poultry litter
  • Spatial variability
  • Subsurface-banding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial patterns of microbial denitrification genes change in response to poultry litter placement and cover crop species in an agricultural soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this