Yasunori Ichihashi, Yasuhiro Date, Amiu Shino, Tomoko Shimizu, Arisa Shibata, Kie Kumaishi, Fumiaki Funahashi, Kenji Wakayama, Kohei Yamazaki, Akio Umezawa, Takumi Sato, Makoto Kobayashi, Mayu Kamimura, Miyako Kusano, Fang-Sik Che, Martin O`Brien, Keitaro Tanoi, Makoto Hayashi, Ryuhei Nakamura, Ken Shirasu, Jun Kikuchi, Naoto Nihei


Both inorganic fertilizer inputs and crop yields have increased globally, with the concurrent increase in the pollution of water bodies due to nitrogen leaching from soils. Designing agroecosystems that are environmentally friendly is urgently required. Since agroecosystems are highly complex and consist of entangled webs of interactions between plants, microbes, and soils, identifying critical components in crop production remain elusive. To understand the network structure in agroecosystems engineered by several farming methods, including environmentally friendly soil solarization, we utilized a multiomics approach on a field planted with Brassica rapa. We found that the soil solarization increased plant shoot biomass irrespective of the type of fertilizer applied. Our multiomics and integrated informatics revealed complex interactions in the agroecosystem showing multiple network modules represented by plant traits heterogeneously associated with soil metabolites, minerals, and microbes. Unexpectedly, we identified soil organic nitrogen induced by soil solarization as one of the key components to increase crop yield. A germ-free plant in vitro assay and a pot experiment using arable soils confirmed that specific organic nitrogen, namely alanine and choline, directly increased plant biomass by acting as a nitrogen source and a biologically active compound. Thus, our study provides evidence at the agroecosystem level that organic nitrogen plays a key role in plant growth.

Paper Information

: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
: 10.1073/pnas.1917259117