Resident bacteria, nitric oxide emission and particle size modulate the effect of Brassica napus seed meal on disease incited by Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium spp

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Amendment of orchard soil with low-glucosinolate Brassica napus (rape) seed meal (RSM) suppresses infection of apple roots by Rhizoctonia solani but increases incidence of Pythium spp. infection. Following incorporation of Brassica sp. seed meals, soils were monitored for changes in populations of selected saprophytic and plant pathogenic microorganisms. When conducted in pasteurized soil, which possessed high numbers of Bacillus spp. and lower than detectable numbers of Streptomyces spp., RSM amendment did not provide control of R. solani. Populations of streptomycetes in RSM-amended soil increased to stable levels >20-fold higher than in non-amended soil. Disease suppressiveness was restored to pasteurized RSM-amended soil by adding any of several Streptomyces strains. Maximal rates of nitrification in orchard soil, determined by nitric oxide emission, were observed within two weeks following RSM amendment and inhibition of nitrification via application of nitrapyrin abolished the capacity of RSM to suppress R. solani infection of apple roots when seedlings were planted one day after soil amendment. Apple seedling mortality and Pythium spp. root infection were highest for seedlings planted immediately following incorporation of B. napus cv. Athena RSM, particularly when meal was added in a flake rather than powder form. Lower infection frequencies were observed for seedlings planted four weeks after RSM incorporation, even for soil in which densities of culturable Pythium spp. had not declined. Our results demonstrate that suppression of Rhizoctonia root rot in response to RSM amendment requires the activity of the resident soil microbiota and that initial disease control is associated with the generation of nitric oxide through the process of nitrification.

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