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Effects of chitin amendment of soil on microorganisms, nematodes, and growth of white clover [Trifolium repens L.] and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)

Sarathchandra, S.U., Watson, R.N., Cox, N.R., Di Menna, M.E., Brown, J.A., Burch, G., Neville, F.J.
Biology and fertility of soils 1996 v.22 no.3 pp. 221-226
Trifolium repens, Lolium perenne, chitin, soil microorganisms, plant parasitic nematodes, free-living nematodes, population dynamics, nematode control, cultural control, plant nutrition, nodulation, roots, shoots, weight, nitrogen, nutrient availability, root shoot ratio, population
Effects of soil amendment with crabshell chitin on the growth of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), and on populations of soil bacteria, fungi, and plant-parasitic and free-living nematodes were investigated in a pot trial. Five soil samples were collected from Te Puke (Paengaroa Shallow Sand, a Typic Hapludand) and five from Hamilton (Bruntwood silt loam, an Aquic Hapludand), New Zealand. Subsamples of each soil were either amended with chitin or unamended and planted with white clover and ryegrass. The ryegrass shoot weight in amended soil was greater (P<0.01), most probably due to N mineralised from chitin. A significantly lower (P<0.01) root: shoot ratio of ryegrass in the amended soil also suggested improved N-availability, and therefore less root mass was needed to support a given shoot mass. A reduction in nodulation was observed in 12-day-old white clover seedlings (P<0.05) and also in 6-week-old seedlings (P<0.01). The shoot weight of white clover was significantly lower (P<0.05) in amended soil, possibly due to phytotoxic effects of chitin. Chitin increased (P<0.01) the populations of bacteria and fungi by 13-fold and 2.5-fold, respectively. The cyst nematode of white clover, Heterodera trifolii, was significantly reduced in chitin-amended soil, possibly due to increased levels of chitinase produced by rhizosphere microorganisms. Two other plant-parasitic nematodes, Pratylenchus spp. and Tylenchus spp., were also reduced in ryegrass roots and in soil as a result of the chitin amendment. However, the total number of free-living nematodes increased 5.4-fold in amended soil.