First author: Department of Plant Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada; and second and third authors: Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 1391 Sandford Street, London, ON, Canada N5V 4T3
Liquid swine manure added to acidic soils killed microsclerotia of the wilt fungus Verticillium dahliae. We investigated whether volatile fatty acids (VFAs) in the manure were responsible for this toxicity. The survival of microsclerotia was determined after exposure to various dilutions of manure or its VFA components. Acetic, propionic, and isobutyric acids constituted the major VFAs in the manure, while n-butyric, n-valeric, iso-valeric, and n-caproic acids were present in lesser amounts. Formic acid was not detected. The individual VFAs were more toxic to microsclerotia as the solution pH was decreased, indicating that the protonated forms of the VFAs were toxic (e.g., acetic acid and not acetate). The effective concentration reducing germination of microsclerotia by 95% (EC95) for formic and n-caproic acids was approximately 4 mM, the most toxic of the acids tested; for n-valeric, the EC95 was 9.2 mM, isovaleric was 16.1 mM acids, and acetic, propionic, n-butyric, and isobutyric acids were approximately 30 mM. The toxicity of acetic acid, and likely all the others, was directly related to the duration of exposure. Inhibition of microsclerotia germination followed identical trends in solutions of the manure or in a mixture of VFAs with equivalent concentrations of the individual acids found in the manure. Similarly, germination declined to the same extent in the atmosphere above the manure or the VFA mixture, confirming the toxicity of VFAs to microsclerotia. Thus, under acid conditions, VFAs in liquid swine manure can kill microsclerotia of V. dahliae.