FErtilization’s effects on crop-weed COmpetition through the soil MIcrobiome (FECOMI)

Crops and weeds compete for space, light and soil resources, such as water and nutrients. In the process of acquiring nutrients, they interact with the soil microbiome, which can favour or be detrimental to resource acquisition. Crop management practices such as fertilization, can further alter this process by changing resource pools and by adding external microorganisms to the system. This four-way relationship among crops, weeds, fertilization and soil microorganisms has only shallowly been explored in agricultural systems. FECOMI will characterize soil microbial communities in agricultural soils that have received different fertilizer types, ranging from fully mineral to organic and monitor crop – weed interactions both in the field and in controlled pot experiments. The role of soil microorganisms in crop – weed interactions will also be tested by sterilizing the soil and monitoring crop and weed growth in the presence and absence of soil microorganisms. Identified microorganisms (or Operational Taxonomic Units, OTU) will be functionally classified into groups known that participate in important soil functions such as N fixation or P acquisition, or that are potential plant pathogens. 
The project will bring together three AT research groups and be led by three young researchers from Applied Plant Biotech (Daniel Plaza-Bonilla), Weed Ecology and Management (Bàrbara Baraibar), and Forest Management (soil microbiology, Jonàs Oliva), which will collaborate with the sector, represented by producers and on their own fields, to provide insight on how fertilization can alter plant growth and soil microorganisms’ diversity and function. This knowledge will increase our understanding on the impacts of management practices such as fertilization on weed – crop competition and on soil microbial communities in semi-arid irrigated field conditions.

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