Long-term nitrogen fertilization indirectly affects soil fungi community structure by changing soil and pruned litter in a subtropical tea (Camellia sinensis L.) plantation in China

  • Xiangde Yang
  • Lifeng Ma
  • Lingfei Ji
  • Yuanzhi Shi
  • Xiaoyun Yi
  • Qinglin Yang
  • Kang NiEmail author
  • Jianyun RuanEmail author
Regular Article


Background and aims

The tea plant is a perennial leaf-harvest crop with high nitrogen (N) demand and a requirement for periodic pruning. While the effect of N fertilization on soil fungal communities has been studied extensively, little is known about the effects of returning the pruned litter to plots on the soil fungal community. Moreover, we do not understand how N fertilization might affect fungal communities by mediating changes in the soil and the properties of pruned tea litter.


Surface soil (0-20 cm in depth) samples were taken from a long-term tea plantation field experiment featuring four N treatments (0, 119, 285, and 569 kg N ha–1 y–1). We investigated the soil fungal community by high-throughput sequencing and partial least square path modeling (PLS-PM) to clarify how N fertilization affects soil fungal community composition.


N fertilization significantly increased inorganic N levels but significantly decreased soil pH, the total amount (TP_A) and concentration (TP) of total polyphenols, and the ratio of litter total polyphenols to total nitrogen (TP/TN) in pruned litters. Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Zygomycota represented ~69% of the fungi in tea soils. Higher rates of N fertilization reduced fungal community diversity (Chao1 index: r=0.67, p<0.01) and significantly changed the fungal composition (PERMANOVA: R2=0.33, p=0.003). PLS-PM results showed that changes in soil pH and NO3 and the TP/TN of pruned litter were the most important factors exerting a direct impact on the composition of soil fungal communities after N fertilization.


Higher N fertilization reduced the diversity of soil fungi and shifted community composition. These changes were predominantly due to alterations in soil properties (pH and NO3-) and pruned litter quality (TP/TN). Our results also highlight the importance of the returning pruned materials with abundant TP to plots for soil microbial transformation in tea plantation ecosystems.


N fertilization Tea plantation Fungal community Pruned litter PLS-PM 


Soil properties


microbial biomass carbon


microbial biomass nitrogen


ratio of microbial biomass carbon to microbial biomass nitrogen


soil total nitrogen


soil organic carbon


ratio of soil total carbon to nitrogen






ratio of ammonium to nitrate

Pruned litter properties


total carbon


total nitrogen


ratio of total carbon to total nitrogen


total crude fiber


ratio of total crude fiber to total nitrogen


total polyphenols


ratio of total polyphenols to total nitrogen


total soluble carbohydrates


ratio of total soluble carbohydrates to total nitrogen



We would like to thank Dr. Lifeng Ma and Dr. Jianyun Ruan for their guidance in experimental design and drafting the manuscript, Dr. Kang Ni for guidance during manuscript drafting, Mr. Lingfei Ji and Mr. Qinglin Yang for helping with soil analyses, and Dr. Yuanzhi Shi and Mrs. Xiaoyun Yi for their suggestions with regard to manuscript drafting. This work was supported financially by the National Key Research and Development Plan (2016YFD0200900), the Earmarked Fund for China Agriculture Research System (CARS 23), the Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS-ASTIP-2014-TRICAAS), the Research Foundation for Natural Sciences of Zhejiang Province (LY13C150002), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41601325).

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4291_MOESM1_ESM.docx (48 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 48 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiangde Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lifeng Ma
    • 1
  • Lingfei Ji
    • 1
  • Yuanzhi Shi
    • 1
  • Xiaoyun Yi
    • 1
  • Qinglin Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kang Ni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jianyun Ruan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Tea Biology and Resource Utilization of Tea, the Ministry of AgricultureTea Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agriculture SciencesHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesBeijingChina

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