USDA-ARS Root Disease and Biological Control Unit, Washington State University, Pullman 99164-6430.
Rhizoctonia spp. cause substantial yield losses in direct-seeded cereal crops compared with conventional tillage. To investigate the mechanisms behind this increased disease, soils from tilled or direct-seeded fields were inoculated with Rhizoctonia spp. at population densities from 0.8 to 250 propagules per gram and planted with barley (Hordeum vulgare). The incidence and severity of disease did not differ between soils with different tillage histories. Both R. solani AG-8 and R. oryzae stunted plants at high inoculum densities, with the latter causing pre-emergence damping-off. High inoculum densities of both species stimulated early production of crown roots in barley seedlings. Intact soil cores from these same tilled and direct-seeded fields were used to evaluate the growth of Rhizoctonia spp. from colonized oat seeds. Growth of R. oryzae was not affected by previous tillage history. However, R. solani AG-8 grew more rapidly through soil from a long-term direct-seeded field compared to tilled soils. The differential response between these two experiments (mixed, homogenized soil versus intact soil) suggests that soil structure plays a major role in the proliferation of R. solani AG-8 through soils with different tillage histories.