Nitrogen fertilizer application alters the root endophyte bacterial microbiome in maize plants, but not in the stem or rhizosphere soil
Plant-associated microorganisms that affect plant development, their composition, and their functionality are determined by the host, soil conditions, and agricultural practices. How agricultural practices affect the rhizosphere microbiome has been well studied, but less is known about how they might affect plant endophytes. In this study, the metagenomic DNA from the rhizosphere and endophyte communities of root and stem of maize plants was extracted and sequenced with the “diversity arrays technology sequencing,” while the bacterial community and functionality (organized by subsystems from general to specific functions) were investigated in crops cultivated with or without tillage and with or without N fertilizer application. Tillage had a small significant effect on the bacterial community in the rhizosphere, but N fertilizer had a highly significant effect on the roots, but not on the rhizosphere or stem. The relative abundance of many bacterial species was significantly different in the roots and stem of fertilized maize plants, but not in the unfertilized ones. The abundance of N cycle genes was affected by N fertilization application, most accentuated in the roots. How these changes in bacterial composition and N genes composition might affect plant development or crop yields has still to be unraveled.