USDA Agricultural Research Service, Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, 1104 N. Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801
Studies were conducted to assess the impact of short-term rotations of wheat on microbial community composition and growth of apple in soils from replant orchard sites. Soils from two orchards were cultivated with three successive 28-day growth cycles of ‘Eltan’, ‘Penewawa’, or ‘Rely’ wheat in the greenhouse and subsequently planted to ‘Gala’ apple seedlings. Cultivation of orchard replant soils with any of the three wheat cultivars enhanced growth of apple relative to that achieved in untreated soils. Improved growth was associated with a marked reduction in apple root infection by species of Rhizoctonia and Pythium. Populations of plant-parasitic nematodes were below damage threshold levels in these orchard soils; however, apple seedlings grown in wheat-cultivated soils had significantly lower root populations of Pratylenchus spp. than did seedlings grown in untreated soils. Growth of apple in ‘Penewawa’-cultivated soils often was superior to that observed in soils planted with ‘Eltan’ or ‘Rely’. In untreated orchard soils, fluorescent pseudomonad populations isolated from soil and the apple rhizosphere were dominated by Pseudomonas fluorescens biotype C and Pseudomonas syringae. Cultivation of replant soils with wheat induced a characteristic transformation of the fluorescent pseudomonad population, and Pseudomonas putida dominated the population of this bacterial group recovered from wheat-cultivated replant orchard soils. Results from this study suggest that use of short-term wheat cropping sequences during orchard renovation could be useful in management of replant disease and that this disease-control option may operate, in part, through modification of the fluorescent pseudomonad community.