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Local and Systemic Effects of NaCl on Root Composition, Rhizobacteria, and Fusarium Crown and Root Rot of Asparagus

February 2003 , Volume 93 , Number  2
Pages  186 - 192

Wade H. Elmer

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, P.O. Box 1106, New Haven 06504

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Accepted for publication 4 September 2002.

The role of NaCl in suppression of Fusarium crown and root rot of asparagus was investigated in split root culture so the direct effects of NaCl on the root and rhizosphere could be separated from effects that were translocated to the nontreated root side. One side of the root system was exposed to 100 ml of 0, 0.5, or 1.0% NaCl, while the other side received deionized water. Both sides of the root system were inoculated with conidial suspensions of the pathogens Fusarium oxysporum and F. proliferatum. When plants were harvested and assayed, root lesions and CFUs of F. oxysporum or F. proliferatum per centimeter of root from both exposed and nonexposed roots decreased as the NaCl rate increased to 1.0%, but the reduction relative to the control was significantly greater on roots that were directly exposed to NaCl (51% reduction in root lesions) than on adjacent nonexposed roots (31% reduction in root lesions). On both sides of the root systems, disease suppression with NaCl was associated with increases in the rhizosphere densities of fluorescent pseudomonads and Mn-reducing bacteria in the rhizosphere soil. In addition, as the NaCl rate increased, root tissues had marked reductions in malic acid and amino acids while concentrations of Cl and Mn increased in equal proportions on both sides of the root system. Chloride ions were absorbed in greater amounts than Na ions, and were more mobile in the plant than Na. Plants treated with 1% NaCl (171 meq of Cl- per liter) had soil leachates 1 week later of 47 meq of Cl- per liter from pots exposed to NaCl, but in the adjacent nonexposed pots, the amount of Cl in the leachates slowly increased over the course of the study to 20 meq/liter, presumably through the root exudation. These findings suggest that suppression of Fusarium crown and root rot of asparagus with NaCl may be due to multiple mechanisms. Maximum suppression occurs when NaCl is directly applied to roots, but suppression still occurs on distal non-treated roots resulting from systemic mechanisms. The latter mechanism may be associated with a root-mediated alteration in the rhizobacteria.

Additional keywords: Asparagus officinalis, mineral nutrition.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society