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Characterization of the Microbial Community Involved in the Suppression of Pythium aphanidermatum in Cucumber Grown on Rockwool

July 2005 , Volume 95 , Number  7
Pages  808 - 818

Joeke Postma , Bart P. J. Geraats , Rob Pastoor , and Jan Dirk van Elsas

First, second, third, and fourth authors: Plant Research International BV, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands; second author: Nunhems Zaden BV, P.O. Box 4005, 6080 AA Haelen, The Netherlands; and fourth author: Department of Microbial Ecology, P.O. Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands

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Accepted for publication 8 March 2005.

The root pathogen Pythium aphanidermatum induced lower levels of disease in cucumber (Cucumis sativus) plants on unsterilized, re-used rockwool slabs than on heat-sterilized, re-used rockwool. Several recolonization treatments of the sterilized rockwool enhanced the suppressiveness of the rockwool. Microbial community structures in the different rockwool treatments were investigated by plate counts on selective media. Disease suppressiveness in the different rockwool treatments showed the highest correlation with the culturable number of filamentous actinomycetes in both experiments (r = 0.79 and 0.94), whereas the numbers of Trichoderma spp. correlated with suppression only in the first experiment (0.86). The numbers of total culturable bacteria, fluorescent pseudomonads, Bacillus spores, and fungi all showed lower correlations with disease suppressiveness. The filamentous actinomycetes enumerated with the plate counts were mainly Streptomyces spp., of which 10% were antagonistic toward P. aphanidermatum in dual culture. The composition of the bacterial and actinomycete populations was studied with polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Multivariate analyses of these patterns with canonical correspondence analysis showed significant correlations between the microbial composition and the disease suppressiveness. However, none of the bands in PCR-DGGE patterns occurred exclusively in the treatments that had enhanced disease suppressiveness. Bands extracted from the actinomycete-specific DGGE gels showed closest similarity with members of several actinomycete genera, i.e., Streptomyces, Mycobacterium, Microbacterium, Rhodococcus, Curtobacterium, and Tsukamurella. The possible mechanism of disease suppressiveness in used rockwool slabs, based on the results obtained with culture-dependent and culture-independent detection methods, is discussed.

Additional keywords: community profiling , root and crown rot .

© 2005 The American Phytopathological Society