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Manipulation of the soil microbial community to suppress soil-borne diseases of banana through soil management

Tony Pattison: Department of Agriculture & Fisheries

<div>Root pathogens, such as plant-parasitic nematodes and Fusarium wilt (<em>Fusarium oxysporum</em> f. sp. <em>cubense</em>) represent key constraints to global banana production. Consequently, farm management strategies are being developed to encourage the growth of organisms that suppress pathogens, while maintaining productivity. A holistic view of soil functions with an understanding of the ecological interactions is required to develop productive, disease suppressive farming systems. Soil nitrogen and organic matter are two factors that have a large impact on soil organisms and can be manipulated by farm management. Their impacts on biological processes were assessed in field trials in the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia, by monitoring soil enzyme activities, the induced respiratory responses of soil organisms to multiple substrates (MicroResp™) and by characterising soil nematode, archaeal and bacterial diversity using microscopy and high-throughput phylogenetic marker gene sequencing, respectively. Successional trends indicating a more diverse soil community were observed in all soil biological soil assessments. The OTU-level microbial community composition differed significantly (p<0.05) between groundcover and nitrogen treatments. Partial RDA was used to visualise differences in the composition of microbial communities, which separated the community associated with bare and vegetated soil and the nitrogen treatments. There was a significant (p<0.05) increase in β-glucosidase activity under vegetated groundcovers, which was strongly correlated with suppression of Fusarium wilt symptoms determined using a soil bioassays. Our results indicate that manipulation of nitrogen and groundcovers made it possible to manipulate to soil microbiome to contribute to the suppression Fusarium wilt of bananas.</div>

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