Microbial Ecology

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 737–752 | Cite as

Biosolids and Tillage Practices Influence Soil Bacterial Communities in Dryland Wheat

  • Daniel C. Schlatter
  • Narayan C. Paul
  • Devendra H. Shah
  • William F. Schillinger
  • Andy I. Bary
  • Brenton Sharratt
  • Timothy C. PaulitzEmail author
Soil Microbiology


Class B biosolids are used in dryland wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) production in eastern Washington as a source of nutrients and to increase soil organic matter, but little is known about their effects on bacterial communities and potential for harboring human pathogens. Moreover, conservation tillage is promoted to reduce erosion and soil degradation. We explored the impacts of biosolids or synthetic fertilizer in combination with traditional (conventional) or conservation tillage on soil bacterial communities. Bacterial communities were characterized from fresh biosolids, biosolid aggregates embedded in soil, and soil after a second application of biosolids using high-throughput amplicon sequencing. Biosolid application significantly affected bacterial communities, even 4 years after their application. Bacteria in the families Clostridiaceae, Norcardiaceae, Anaerolinaceae, Dietziaceae, and Planococcaceae were more abundant in fresh biosolids, biosolid aggregates, and soils treated with biosolids than in synthetically fertilized soils. Taxa identified as Turcibacter, Dietzia, Clostridiaceae, and Anaerolineaceae were highly abundant in biosolid aggregates in the soil and likely originated from the biosolids. In contrast, Oxalobacteriaceae, Streptomyceteaceae, Janthinobacterium, Pseudomonas, Kribbella, and Bacillus were rare in the fresh biosolids, but relatively abundant in biosolid aggregates in the soil, and probably originated from the soil to colonize the substrate. However, tillage had relatively minor effects on bacterial communities, with only a small number of taxa differing in relative abundance between traditional and conventional tillage. Although biosolid-associated bacteria persisted in soil, potentially pathogenic taxa were extremely rare and no toxin genes for key groups (Salmonella, Clostridium) were detectable, suggesting that although fecal contamination was apparent via indicator taxa, pathogen populations had declined to low levels. Thus, biosolid amendments had profound effects on soil bacterial communities both by introducing gut- or digester-derived bacteria and by enriching potentially beneficial indigenous soil populations.


Biosolids Soil Microbiome Pathogens Tillage Wheat Dryland cropping systems 



The authors thank John Jacobsen and Bruce Sauer for their excellent assistance in the field management of this experiment.


Funding for the research was provided by the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Washington State University, King County, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Northwest Biosolids. D.C.S. was funded by an administrator-funded USDA-ARS Postdoctoral Research Associate Award.

Supplementary material

248_2019_1339_Fig9_ESM.jpg (244 kb)
Supplemental Figure 1 The biosolids experiment at Lind, WA was laid out in a split-block design to facilitate the application of biosolids with a manure spreader. There were two sets of plots so that both the winter wheat and fallow phases in the 2-year winter wheat-fallow rotation were present every year. Green represents the biosolid treatment and blue the synthetic fertilizer treatment. 1 = undercutter, 2 = disk. B = biosolid, S = synthetic. (JPG 243 kb)
248_2019_1339_Fig10_ESM.png (86 kb)
Supplemental Figure 2

Differentially abundant OTUs for tillage. Graph on left- both taxa are more abundant in conservation than traditional tillage in biosolid treatments. Graph on right- both taxa are more abundant in conservation than traditional tillage in synthetic fertilizer treatments. (PNG 85 kb)

248_2019_1339_MOESM1_ESM.tiff (256 kb)
High resolution image (TIFF 256 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel C. Schlatter
    • 1
  • Narayan C. Paul
    • 2
  • Devendra H. Shah
    • 2
  • William F. Schillinger
    • 3
  • Andy I. Bary
    • 4
  • Brenton Sharratt
    • 5
  • Timothy C. Paulitz
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Wheat Health, Genetics and Quality Research UnitUSDA-ARSPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, College of Veterinary MedicineWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  3. 3.Department of Crop and Soil SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  4. 4.Puyallup Research and Extension CenterWashington State UniversityPuyallupUSA
  5. 5.Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems Research UnitUSDA-ARSPullmanUSA

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