The aim of this work was to evaluate the effects of 2 soil management systems, so called ‘innovative’ (INN) and ‘conventional’ (CON), on genetic and metabolic diversity of soil microbial communities of peach and kiwifruit orchards. INN system included minimum tillage, organic matter inputs from compost and cover crops, winter pruning, and adequate irrigation and fertilisation. CON system was characterised by conventional tillage, zero organic input, empirical pruning, strong chemical fertilisation, and excessive irrigation. After 4 years of treatments, soil samples were collected in different orchard sites. In peach and kiwifruit INN orchards, average fruit yields were significantly higher than in CON. INN orchards had a significantly higher total number of bacteria. The patterns of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of bacterial 16S rDNA/RNA from peach orchard showed differences between soils under drip emitters and along the inter-rows, whereas those from kiwifruit orchard clearly distinguished between INN and CON for both bacteria (16S rRNA) and fungi (18S rDNA/RNA). Shannon’s substrate diversity index, evaluated by Biolog® metabolic assay, was affected by soil treatment in peach orchard and by soil depth in kiwifruit orchard. Principal component analysis of Biolog® values clearly discriminated INN and CON soils of both orchards. The results revealed qualitative and quantitative changes of soil microbial communities in response to an innovative and sustainable soil management.
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