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Ammonia and Nitrous Acid from Nitrogenous Amendments Kill the Microsclerotia of Verticillium dahliae

March 2002 , Volume 92 , Number  3
Pages  255 - 264

Mario Tenuta and George Lazarovits

First author: Former Graduate Assistant, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada; second author: Research Scientist, Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 1391 Sandford Street, London, ON, Canada N5V 4T3

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Accepted for publication 30 October 2001.

This study examined the mechanisms by which nitrogenous amendments such as meat and bone meal kill the soilborne plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae. The effect of nitrogen products from the amendments on the survival of microsclerotia of V. dahliae was examined by solution bioassay and soil microcosm experiments. Ammonia and nitrous acid but not their ionized counterparts, ammonium and nitrite, were toxic to microsclerotia in bioassays. In microcosms, addition of meat and bone meal (2.5%) to an acidic loamy sand resulted in the accumulation of ammonia and death of microsclerotia within 2 weeks. At lower concentrations (0.5 and 1%), microsclerotia were killed after 2 weeks when nitrous acid accumulated (>0.03 mM). In an alkaline loam soil, microsclerotia survived at 3% meat and bone meal and neither ammonia nor nitrous acid accumulated. The toxicity of ammonia to the pathogen was verified by increasing the concentration of meat and bone meal to 4% or addition of urea (1,600 mg of N per kg) to the loam soil resulting in the accumulation of ammonia (>35 mM) and death of microsclerotia. The toxicity of nitrous acid was verified by adding ammonium sulfate fertilizer to an acidic sand soil. Inhibiting nitrification with dicyandiamide revealed that nitrous acid was generated as a result of the accumulation of nitrite and an acidic pH. Thus, levels to which the toxins accumulated and the effective concentration of amendment were dependent upon the soil examined. Of the two mechanisms identified, accumulation of nitrous acid is the more promising strategy to control plant diseases in acidic soil because it is more toxic than ammonia and is formed at lower concentrations of amendments.

© Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada 2002