First and fourth authors: SASEX and IRD, Private Bag XO2, Mount Edgecombe, 4300 KwaZulu Natal, South Africa; and first, second, third, and fifth authors: UMR CNRS 5557 Ecologie Microbienne, Université Claude Bernard (Lyon 1), 43 bd du 11 Novembre, F-69622 Villeurbanne, France
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Accepted for publication 16 May 2003.
Two South African sandy soils, one suppressive and the other conducive to ectoparasitic nematode damage on monoculture sugarcane, were compared. Analysis of field transects indicated that the suppressive soil displayed a comparatively higher population of the weak ectoparasite Helicotylenchus dihystera, whose predominance among ectoparasitic nematodes is known to limit yield loss caused by more virulent phytonematodes. Soil type was identical at both sites (entisols), but the suppressive soil had a higher organic matter content and a lower pH, which correlated with H. dihystera population data. In contrast, microclimatic differences between the two field sites were unlikely to be responsible for the suppressive or conducive status of the soils, as shown in a greenhouse experiment. The two soils exhibited a bacterial community of the same size but with different genetic structures, as indicated by automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (RISA). The number of culturable fluorescent pseudomonads was higher for the conducive soil, probably because extensive root damage caused by ectoparasitic nematodes favored proliferation of these bacteria. This study shows that apparently small differences in soil composition between fields located in the same climatic area and managed similarly can translate into contrasted nematode communities, ectoparasitic nematode damage levels, and sugarcane yields.
© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society