Hedgerows shape soil bacterial communities in adjacent cropland

Although the benefits of hedgerows on biodiversity like birds, pollinators and natural enemies to pests is well established, a recent study published in the journal Agronomy found that hedgerows can also benefit the surrounding cropland soil by increasing the functional diversity of soil bacteria. The diversity of soil bacteria is important because when beneficial bacteria are present, they can outcompete harmful bacteria that causes soil and plant disease. Organic practices have been shown to improve beneficial soil bacteria because these practices increase soil organic matter that provides the right food and shelter for these bacteria. However, it is not often considered that long-term, non-crop vegetation on the farm might also improve the microbiome of the soil where adjacent crops are grown. This study compared soil bacteria in conventional farms to farms under long-term ecological management (organic soil amendments and no pesticide use) with and without long-term hedgerows. The researchers found that bacterial communities were distinctly different from each other across the three farm types, and the ecological farms with hedgerows had soils with higher organic matter. Functional diversity of bacteria was also driven by the presence of hedgerows. This study highlights an important and additional benefit to having hedgerows on farms.


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