Crop residues, organic amendments, and root exudates all contribute to soil carbon stocks. Most of these carbon-rich inputs must be transformed by the soil microbiome prior to stabilizing in the soil profile. However, increases in carbon storage following the adoption of soil health management practices can take years to distinguish. Furthermore, currently adopted indicators of carbon cycling in soil rely on disturbed soil samples, whose measures are difficult to relate back to infield microbiome dynamics.
The goal of this project is to develop DNA sequence-based indicators that allow stakeholders to observe how management decisions impact their potential to transform and build soil organic carbon. The work will utilize metagenomic and carbon data collected as part of the North American Project to Evaluate Soil Health Measurements. Genes of interest will be identified through metagenomic sequencing and then directly quantified using high throughput qPCR performed on DNA stored from the project. Establishing genomic indicators of carbon cycling is the first step in the institute’s goal of creating a suite of DNA based soil health indicators capable of describing a multitude of different, currently unreported, soil functions. The suite will directly indicate how changes in management practices impact microbiome function.