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Using Air Pressure Cells to Evaluate the Effect of Soil Environment on the Transmission of Soilborne Viruses of Wheat

September 2003 , Volume 93 , Number  9
Pages  1,131 - 1,136

L. Cadle-Davidson , R. R. Schindelbeck , H. M. van Es , S. M. Gray , and G. C. Bergstrom

First and fifth authors: Department of Plant Pathology; second and third authors: Department of Crop and Soil Sciences; and fourth author: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Plant Protection Research Unit, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

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Accepted for publication 31 March 2003.

An air pressure cell, a laboratory tool that precisely controls soil matric potential, was utilized in a novel approach to investigate the epidemiology and management of soilborne disease. Matric potentials of −1, −5, −20, and −40 kPa were established in cores of field soil infested with Wheat soilborne mosaic virus (WSBMV) and its presumed vector Polymyxa graminis. Equilibrated soil cores were planted to wheat (Triticum aestivum), and after intervals of growth under controlled environment, virus transmission was assessed by serological detection of the virus in washed roots. Transmission occurred at all but the driest soil matric potential tested, −40 kPa, in which only pores with a diameter of 7.4 μm or less were water-filled, possibly obstructing movement of P. graminis zoospores. By starting plants at −40 kPa for 10.5 days and then watering them to conducive matric potential, we found that WSBMV transmission occurred between 12 to 24 h at 15°C, and within 36 h at 20°C. No significant transmission occurred within 96 h at 6.5°C. In contrast, transmission of Wheat spindle streak mosaic virus (WSSMV) did not occur at 15°C (the only transmission temperature tested), suggesting either that WSSMV is unable to establish infection at 15°C or that a different vector is involved. The air pressure cell is a novel tool with many potential applications in research on the epidemiology and management of soilborne pathogens. Applications of the precise environmental control attained through the use of air pressure cells range from assessing the effects of cultural practices on soilborne inoculum to standardized virulence assays for soilborne pathogens to preliminary screens of host resistance and pesticide efficacy.

Additional keywords: Bymovirus , Furovirus , soil ecology, soil microbiology.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2003