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Microbial community responses associated with the development of oomycete plant pathogens on tomato roots in soilless growing systems

Calvo-Bado, L.A., Petch, G., Parsons, N.R., Morgan, J.A.W., Pettitt, T.R., Whipps, J.M.
Journal of applied microbiology 2006 v.100 no.6 pp. 1194-1207
Phytophthora cryptogea, Pythium aphanidermatum, bacteria, bacterial communities, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, disease control, genes, hydroponics, nutrient solutions, plant pathogens, ribosomal RNA, roots, tomatoes
To determine the spread of different oomycete pathogens in hydroponic, soilless tomato growing systems and their impact on established microbial communities, as baseline studies prior to future introduction of microbial inoculants for disease suppression. The oomycete pathogens, Pythium group F, Pythium aphanidermatum and Phytophthora cryptogea, were introduced into small-scale recirculating tomato growing systems containing rockwool 6 weeks after set-up when roots were well-established. Two weeks later, half of the systems were switched over to run-to-waste. Pythium aphanidermatum spreads the fastest, Pythium group F the slowest and Ph. cryptogea was intermediate in its spread. The switch to run-to-waste had no effect on pathogen recovery. Microbial communities, monitored by dilution plating, were well-established at the first sampling, 6 weeks after set-up and although differences in community levels were found between experiments, changes during any one experiment were small, generally less than 1 log₁₀ CFU g⁻¹ for bacteria. Pathogen introduction increased microbial community levels in roots but the switch to run-to-waste had no effect. Analysis of bacterial communities through amplification of a fragment of the 16S rRNA gene and DGGE profiling showed that different communities were established within each pathogen experiment and that different communities were established on roots, rockwool and in nutrient solutions. However, no significant changes in microbial profiles were found over time in any experiment. In these systems, the microbial communities were well-established 6 weeks after set-up and were resistant to biological and physical perturbation. The implication for microbial inoculation of such systems for disease suppression is that the micro-organisms would either have to be introduced very early during the set-up of the system or be able to replace an established but variable community.