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Mitigating N2O emissions from agricultural soils with fungivorous mites


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas and an ozone-depleting substance. Due to the long persistence of N2O in the atmosphere, the mitigation of anthropogenic N2O emissions, which are mainly derived from microbial N2O-producing processes, including nitrification and denitrification by bacteria, archaea, and fungi, in agricultural soils, is urgently necessary. Members of mesofauna affect microbial processes by consuming microbial biomass in soil. However, how microbial consumption affects N2O emissions is largely unknown. Here, we report the significant role of fungivorous mites, the major mesofaunal group in agricultural soils, in regulating N2O production by fungi, and the results can be applied to the mitigation of N2O emissions. We found that the application of coconut husks, which is the low-value part of coconut and is commonly employed as a soil conditioner in agriculture, to soil can supply a favorable habitat for fungivorous mites due to its porous structure and thereby increase the mite abundance in agricultural fields. Because mites rapidly consume fungal N2O producers in soil, the increase in mite abundance substantially decreases the N2O emissions from soil. Our findings might provide new insight into the mechanisms of soil N2O emissions and broaden the options for the mitigation of N2O emissions.

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Fig. 1: Hypothesis investigated in this study.
Fig. 2: Mitigation of N2O emissions from soils in a sweet corn field after coconut husk application.
Fig. 3: Increased mite abundances in soils with coconut husk application and the resulting effect on N2O emissions from soils.
Fig. 4: Consumption of N2O-producing fungi by fungivorous mites and the subsequent effect on N2O emissions from soils.


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This study was financially supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI (15KT0024 and 20K21303), the Science and Technology Research Promotion Program for Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food Industry (26037B and 27004C), and grants from the Project of the NARO Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (research program on the development of innovative technology) (30012B). We thank W. Shen, N. Gao, N. Kaneko, M. Ishii, T. Kamiya, S. Otsuka, C. Hayakawa, R. Fujimura, Y. Ise, Z. Xu, C. Taylor, M. Maeda, and the technical staff members of Niigata Agricultural Research Institute for their help during this study.

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HS, YS, and KS conceived of the study. YS designed the first field experiment and interpreted the raw data. YS and SO performed the field setup, gas sampling, and corn yield determination in the first field experiment. HS extracted the mites from coconut husks and identified the mites. HS, KS, and YS proposed the hypothesis. HS, YS, and KS designed the second field experiment. YS, HS, KS, and SO performed the field setup, gas sampling, soil sampling, and mite extraction in the second field experiment. HS counted and identified the mites in the second field experiment. HS designed and performed all in vitro experiments and soil microcosm experiments. YM supported DNA extraction, qPCR, and the relative data analysis. HS performed the statistical analyses. HS wrote the paper with contributions from KI and KS.

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Correspondence to Haoyang Shen.

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Shen, H., Shiratori, Y., Ohta, S. et al. Mitigating N2O emissions from agricultural soils with fungivorous mites. ISME J 15, 2427–2439 (2021).

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