The choice of soilless growing medium for plant nutrition, growth and support is crucial for improving the eco-sustainability of the production in horticultural systems. As current understanding of the functional microbial communities inhabiting this ecosystem is still limited, this research examined the microbial community development of the two most important growing media (organic and mineral) used in open soilless horticultural systems.
This research aimed to identify factors that influence community composition over time and to compare the distribution of individual taxa across growing media and their potential functionality. High throughput sequencing analysis revealed a distinctive and stable microbial community in the organic growing medium. Humidity, pH, nitrate-N, ammonium-N and conductivity were uncovered as the main factors associated with the resident bacterial communities. Ammonium-N was correlated with Rhizobiaceae abundance, while potential competitive interactions among both Methylophilaceae and Actinobacteridae with Rhizobiaceae were suggested.
The results revealed that soilless growing media are unique niches for diverse bacterial communities with temporal functional stability, which may possibly impact the resistance to external forces. These differences in communities can be used to develop strategies to move towards sustainable horticulture with increased productivity and quality.
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Grunert, O. et al. Mineral and organic growing media have distinct community structure, stability and functionality in soilless culture systems. Sci. Rep. 6, 18837; doi: 10.1038/srep18837 (2016).