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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Limited resilience of the soil microbiome to mechanical compaction within four growing seasons of agricultural management

Longepierre, Manon; Widmer, Franco; Keller, Thomas; Weisskopf, Peter; Colombi, Tino; Six, Johan; Hartmann, Martin;


Soil compaction affects many soil functions, but we have little information on the resistance and resilience of soil microorganisms to this disturbance. Here, we present data on the response of soil microbial diversity to a single compaction event and its temporal evolution under different agricultural management systems during four growing seasons. Crop yield was reduced (up to −90%) in the first two seasons after compaction, but mostly recovered in subsequent seasons. Soil compaction increased soil bulk density (+15%), and decreased air permeability (−94%) and gas diffusion (−59%), and those properties did not fully recover within four growing seasons. Soil compaction induced cropping system-dependent shifts in microbial community structures with little resilience over the four growing seasons. Microbial taxa sensitive to soil compaction were detected in all major phyla. Overall, anaerobic prokaryotes and saprotrophic fungi increased in compacted soils, whereas aerobic prokaryotes and plant-associated fungi were mostly negatively affected. Most measured properties showed large spatial variability across the replicated blocks, demonstrating the dependence of compaction effects on initial conditions. This study demonstrates that soil compaction is a disturbance that can have long-lasting effects on soil properties and soil microorganisms, but those effects are not necessarily aligned with changes in crop yield.

Published in

ISME Communications

2021, volume: 1, article number: 44

Authors' information

Longepierre, Manon
ETH Zurich
Widmer, Franco
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Weisskopf, Peter
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment
Six, Johan
ETH Zurich
Hartmann, Martin
ETH Zurich

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science

Publication Identifiers


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