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Seed-Colonizing Microbes from Municipal Biosolids Compost Suppress Pythium ultimum Damping-Off on Different Plant Species

September 2008 , Volume 98 , Number  9
Pages  1,012 - 1,018

M.-H. Chen and E. B. Nelson

Cornell University, Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, 334 Plant Science Building, Ithaca, NY 14853-4203.

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Accepted for publication 22 May 2008.

Composts are known for their suppressive properties toward many different seed- and root-infecting pathogens and diseases. Although disease and pathogen suppression induced by composts is believed to be mediated by microbial activities, the nature of the microbial species and processes responsible for suppressiveness remain unknown. We demonstrated previously that seed-colonizing microbial consortia from leaf compost could explain the observed levels of Pythium ultimum-induced damping-off suppression on cotton. The aim of the present work was to determine whether seed-colonizing microbial consortia could explain Pythium damping-off suppression in municipal biosolids compost on three different plant species. Significant levels of disease suppression were observed on cucumber, wheat, and pea at water potentials of --2 kPa. The suppression of damping-off on cucumber and wheat could be eliminated by autoclaving the compost prior to sowing. High levels of suppressiveness were expressed both on cucumber and on wheat seed surfaces within 8 h of sowing. However, the expression of damping-off suppression on the surface of pea seeds was inconsistent and highly variable. Our results demonstrate that compost-induced suppression of P. ultimum damping-off of cucumber and wheat can be explained by the microbial consortia colonizing seeds within 8 h of sowing. These results further suggest that disease suppression in composts is related to microbial species that interact with the pathogen in its infection court and not in the bulk compost.

Additional keywords:oomycete ecology, spermosphere, suppressive soils.

© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society