The Influence of Companion Planting on Microbial Compositions and Their Symbiotic Network in Pepper Continuous Cropping Soil

Introduction

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Pepper, a widely cultivated vegetable in Ningxia, China, holds great nutritional value, as it is rich in capsaicin, ascorbic acid, vitamin C, and other beneficial nutrients. However, the practice of continuous cropping has led to imbalances in soil nutrients and microbial community structure, as well as a range of other problems such as secondary salinization, soilborne diseases, and ecological deterioration. These challenges have significantly impacted the quality and yield of peppers, hindering the sustainable development of the industry.

Companion planting has emerged as an effective solution to overcome these obstacles. Not only is companion planting one of the most popular methods in modern agriculture, but it also serves as an essential biological control measure. By planting different types of plants in close proximity, companion planting contributes to pest control, pollinates crops, optimizes nutrient supply, and maximizes space utilization. Furthermore, it plays a vital role in improving soil nutrients, enhancing soil enzyme activities, enriching microbial diversity, and reducing the occurrence of soilborne diseases. Numerous studies have demonstrated that companion planting enhances the yield and quality of vegetables, reduces diseases and pests, and improves the soil ecological environment.

It has been observed that companion planting activates soil phosphorus and increases soil phosphatase activity. The interaction between companion plants and root exudates regulates the microecological environment, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic microorganisms while promoting seedling and plant growth. Additionally, companion planting leads to advantageous interactions between plants, resulting in higher economic value per unit area and contributing to sustainable agricultural development.

Soil microorganisms, as a crucial source of soil enzymes, play a significant role in soil biochemical reactions and cause beneficial changes in soil enzyme activities. Intercropping involving companion planting utilizes the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function, thereby increasing plant primary productivity. Studies have shown that intercropping enriches the diversity of bacteria, changes bacterial community structures, and inhibits the invasion and reproduction of pathogenic bacteria. Improving plant diversity increases the content and diversity of soil available carbon sources for microorganisms, which in turn enhances their number, diversity, and activity. Moreover, plant root exudates provide essential nutrients and energy for the survival and reproduction of rhizosphere microorganisms, promoting soil microbial diversity and health.

Understanding the impact of companion planting on soil health from a microbial perspective is crucial. This study utilizes high-throughput amplicon sequencing technology to characterize and compare various soil enzymes, microbial compositions, and their symbiotic networks in pepper monoculture and various companion planting systems.

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