USDA Agricultural Research Service, Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, 1104 N. Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801
Systematic studies were conducted to elucidate the role of different soil microbial groups in the development of apple replant disease. Populations of targeted microorganisms were reduced by the application of semiselective biocides and soil pasteurization. Bacteria were not implicated in the disease, because application of the antibiotic chloramphenicol reduced soil populations of bacteria but failed to improve growth of apple transplants, while enhanced growth was achieved at pasteurization temperatures that did not alter attributes of the bacterial community recovered from apple roots. Populations of Pratylenchus penetrans were below the damage threshold level in eight of nine orchards surveyed, and nematicide applications failed to enhance apple growth in four of five replant soils tested, indicating that plant parasitic nematodes have a minor role or no role in disease development. Application of the fungicide difenconazole or metalaxyl enhanced growth of apple in all five replant soils, as did fludioxinil in the two soils tested. Soil pasteurization enhanced growth of apple and resulted in specific changes in the composition of the fungal community isolated from the roots of apple seedlings grown in these treated soils. Cylindrocarpon destructans, Phytophthora cactorum, Pythium spp., and Rhizoctonia solani were consistently isolated from symptomatic trees in the field and were pathogenic to apple. However, the composition of the Pythium and Rhizoctonia component and the relative contribution of any one component of this fungal complex to disease development varied among the study orchards. These findings clearly demonstrate that fungi are the dominant causal agents of apple replant disease in Washington state.