It may be possible to tailor crop management to encourage diverse soil microbial communities and beneficial microorganisms, and produce high quality food products. Studies were carried out in 2005-2007 to evaluate the impact of spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivar choice and crop polycultures on soil microbial communities in organic and conventional systems, and subsequent wheat quality. Five wheat cultivars were grown organically and conventionally to evaluate grain breadmaking quality and micronutrient content and their impact on the soil microbial community. Organic grain yields were roughly half of conventional yields, but quality levels were all acceptable for Canadian Western Hard Red Spring wheat. Measured soil (0-15 cm) microbial profiles (by phospholipid fatty acid analysis) differed between the two management systems, and amongst cultivars in the conventional system. The most recent cultivar in the study, AC Superb, exhibited the highest levels of fungi suggesting that breeding efforts in conventionally managed environments may have resulted in cultivating mycorrhizal dependence in that environment. In general, many of the studied grain micronutrients were greater in the organically grown wheat system, possibly due in part to decreased grain yield and smaller grain size. Maximizing grain micronutrient content through wheat cultivar choice was dependent on management system. The presence of fungi biomarkers appears to have improved uptake of Mn and Cu.
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