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Transformation of Soil Microbial Community Structure and Rhizoctonia-Suppressive Potential in Response to Apple Roots

October 1999 , Volume 89 , Number  10
Pages  920 - 927

Mark Mazzola

USDA Agricultural Research Service, Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, 1104 N. Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801

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Accepted for publication 20 July 1999.

Changes in the composition of soil microbial communities and relative disease-suppressive ability of resident microflora in response to apple cultivation were assessed in orchard soils from a site possessing trees established for 1 to 5 years. The fungal community from roots of apple seedlings grown in noncultivated orchard soil was dominated by isolates from genera commonly considered saprophytic. Plant-pathogenic fungi in the genera Phytophthora, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia constituted an increasing proportion of the fungal community isolated from seedling roots with increasing orchard block age. Bacillus megaterium and Burkholderia cepacia dominated the bacterial communities recovered from noncultivated soil and the rhizosphere of apple seedlings grown in orchard soil, respectively. Populations of the two bacteria in their respective habitats declined dramatically with increasing orchard block age. Lesion nematode populations did not differ among soil and root samples from orchard blocks of different ages. Similar changes in microbial communities were observed in response to planting noncultivated orchard soil to five successive cycles of ‘Gala’ apple seedlings. Pasteurization of soil had no effect on apple growth in noncultivated soil but significantly enhanced apple growth in third-year orchard block soil. Seedlings grown in pasteurized soil from the third-year orchard block were equal in size to those grown in noncultivated soil, demonstrating that suppression of plant growth resulted from changes in the composition of the soil microbial community. Rhizoctonia solani anastomosis group 5 (AG 5) had no effect on growth of apple trees in noncultivated soil but significantly reduced the growth of apple trees in soil from third-year orchard soil. Changes in the ability of the resident soil microflora to suppress R. solani AG 5 were associated with reductions in the relative populations of Burkholderia cepacia and Pseudomonas putida in the rhizosphere of apple.

Additional keywords: apple replant disease.

The American Phytopathological Society, 1999