IPO-DLO, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
After outbreaks of potato brown rot in three different fields in the Netherlands, the fate of the brown rot pathogen, Ralstonia solanacearum biovar 2, was monitored in soil by immunofluorescence colony staining (IFC) supported by R. solanacearum division-2 specific polymerase chain reaction. In selected areas of all fields, the R. solanacearum population densities were initially on the order 104 to 106 per g of topsoil. These population densities then declined progressively over time. In two fields, however, the pathogen persisted for periods of 10 to 12 months. The survival of a selected R. solanacearum biovar 2 isolate, strain 1609, in three soils, a loamy sand and two different silt loam soils, was further studied in soil microcosm experiments. The effects of temperature and soil moisture content were assessed. At 12 or 15 and 20°C, a gradual decline of the population densities was observed in all three soils, from the established 105 to 106 CFU g-1 of dry soil to significantly reduced levels, occasionally bordering the limit of detection (102 CFU g-1of dry soil), in periods of approximately 90 to 210 days. Soil type affected the rate of population decline at 20°C, with the greatest decline occurring in loamy sand soil. In all three soils, the survival of IFC-detectable R. solanacearum 1609 cells at 4°C was severely impaired, reflected in an accelerated decline of CFU counts, to undetectable numbers. Moreover, indications were found for the occurrence of viable but nonculturable strain 1609 cells in the loamy sand as well as in one silt loam soil under these conditions. In addition, a single freezing-thawing cycle caused a significant additional reduction of the culturable R. solanacearum 1609 populations in the three soils, though detectable populations remained. Moderate soil moisture fluctuations of approximately pF 2 did not affect the survival of R. solanacearum 1609 in soil. Severe drought, however, drastically reduced the populations of strain 1609 CFU in all three soils.