Compost made from organic household and garden waste was used to substitute part of the peat in potting mixtures used for growing woody ornamental nursery stock. The effects of amendment with compost on the colonization of potting mixture by Rhizoctonia solani (AG1) were studied in greenhouse experiments. A bioassay was developed using cucumber as a sensitive herbaceous test plant as a substitute for woody ornamental cuttings. Pathogen growth in the potting mixture was estimated by measuring the distance over which damping-off of seedlings occurred. Compost from two commercial composting facilities suppressed growth of R. solani in potting mixtures with 20% of the product when the compost was fresh (directly after delivery) or long matured (after 5 to 7 months of additional curing). In contrast, short-matured compost (1 month of additional curing) from the same batches stimulated pathogen growth. In vitro mycelial growth of R. solani on mixtures with mature compost was inhibited by microbial antagonism. Compost-amended potting mixtures responded differentially to the addition of cellulose powder; the effect on suppressiveness depended on curing time and origin of the compost. In long-matured compost, suppressiveness to R. solani was associated with high population densities of cellulolytic and oligotrophic actinomycetes. The ratio of the population density of actinomycetes to that of other bacteria was around 200-fold higher in mature suppressive compost than in conducive compost.
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