Pinpointing the distinctive impacts of ten cover crop species on the resident and active fractions of the soil microbiome

Sara G. Cazzaniga, Lize Braat, Sven van den Elsen, Carin Lombaers, Johnny Visser, Lia Obinu, Jose G. Maciá-Vicente, Joeke Postma, Liesje Mommer, Johannes Helder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Cover crops are used in agriculture to minimize soil erosion, prevent nutrient leaching and increase soil organic matter content. Cover crops can also be grown to stimulate the soil microbial community to improve soil biological conditions. Despite their widespread use, little is known about the impact of different cover crop species on the composition and activity of the soil microbiome. Here we investigate the effect of distinct cover crop species on the rhizosphere microbiome and characterize both the resident (ribosomal (r)DNA-based) and the potentially active (rRNA-based) fractions of the bacterial, fungal, protist and metazoan communities in the cover crops rhizosphere. We conducted a field experiment using 70-l bottomless containers in which we grew ten monocultures of commonly used cover crop species belonging to five plant families, and an unplanted control treatment (fallow). The total DNA and RNA were extracted from soil and the bacterial, fungal, protistan and metazoan communities were characterized using Illumina MiSeq sequencing. We found that all cover crop species significantly impacted the resident and the potentially active microbial communities in their rhizospheres. Cover crops exerted distinct selection strengths on the native microbial communities. For individual cover crops, the impacts on the resident and the potentially active microbial communities differed while showing similar overall tendencies. Oilseed radish (Brassicaceae) was shown to provoke the strongest microbial shifts, in part attributable to a promotion of the bacterial family Pseudomonadaceae and a repression of Microascaceae in the rhizosphere. Lentil (Fabaceae) induced a widespread stimulation of fungal taxa, including Trichocomaceae and fungal members of the Glomerales order, whereas black oat and hybrid ryegrass (both Poaceae) gave rise to relatively mild changes in the soil microbial communities. Analyses of rRNA-based rhizobiome data revealed that, except for phacelia, all cover crops induced an increase in microbial network complexity as compared to the fallow control. Data presented here provide a broad baseline for the effects of cover crops on four organismal groups, which may facilitate future cover crop selection to advance soil health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105012
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Early online date21 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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