Eubacterial communities in different soil macroaggregate environments and cropping systems

Christopher B. Blackwood, Curtis J. Dell, Alvin J.M. Smucker, Eldor A. Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Different positions within soil macroaggregates, and macroaggregates of different sizes, have different chemical and physical properties which could affect microbial growth and interactions among taxa. The hypothesis that these soil aggregate fractions contain different eubacterial communities was tested using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) of the 16S ribosomal gene. Communities were characterized from two field experiments, located at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS), MI, USA and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), Wooster, OH, USA. Three soil management regimes at each site were sampled and management was found to significantly affect T-RFLP profiles. The soil aggregate erosion (SAE) method was used to isolate aggregate regions (external and internal regions). Differences between eubacterial T-RFLP profiles of aggregate exteriors and interiors were marginally significant at KBS (accounting for 12.5% of total profile variance), and not significant at OARDC. There were no significant differences among macroaggregate size classes at either site. These results are in general agreement with previous studies using molecular methods to examine microbial communities among different soil macroaggregate size fractions, although further study of communities within different aggregate regions is warranted. Analysis of individual macroaggregates revealed large inter-aggregate variability in community structure. Hence the tertiary components of soil structure, e.g. arrangement of aggregates in relation to shoot residue, roots, macropores, etc., may be more important than aggregate size or intra-aggregate regions in the determination of the types of microbial communities present in aggregates. Direct microscopic counts were also used to examine the bacterial population size in aggregate regions at KBS. The proportion of bacterial cells with biovolumes >0.18 μm3 was higher in aggregate interiors than in exteriors, indicating potentially higher activity in that environment. This proportion was significantly related to percent C of the samples, while total bacterial cell counts were not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-728
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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