Apple Root stocks and Pre-plant Soil Treatments Alter Soil Microbial Community Composition in a New York Orchard

in HortScience
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  • 1 1Cornell University, Department of Horticulture, Ithaca, NY, 14853
  • | 2 2Cornell University, Department of Crop and Soil Science, Itahca, NY, 14853

Apple (Malu ×domestica) replant disease (ARD) is a soil-borne disease syndrome of complex etiology that occurs worldwide when establishing new orchards in old fruit-growing sites. Methyl bromide (MB) has been an effective soil fumigant to control ARD, but safer alternatives to MB are needed. We evaluated soil microbial communities, tree growth, and fruit yield for three pre-plant soil treatments (compost amendment, soil treatment with a broad-spectrum fumigant, and untreated controls), and five clonal rootstocks (M7, M26, CG6210, CG30, and G16), in an apple replant site at Ithaca, N.Y. Molecular fingerprinting (PCR-DGGE) techniques were used to study soil microbial community composition of root-zone soil of the different soil treatments and rootstocks. Tree caliper, shoot growth, and yield were measured annually from 2002–04. Among the five rootstocks we compared, trees on CG6210 had the most growth and yield, while trees on M26 had the least growth and yield. Soil treatments altered soil microbial communities during the year after pre-plant treatments, and each treatment was associated with distinct microbial groups in hierarchical cluster analyses. However, those differences among fungal and bacterial communities diminished during the second year after planting, and soil fungal communities equilibrated faster than bacterial communities. Pre-plant soil treatments altered bulk-soil microbial community composition, but those shifts in soil microbial communities had no obvious correlation with tree performance. Rootstock genotypes were the dominant factor in tree performance after 3 years of observations, and different rootstocks were associated with characteristic bacterial, pseudomonad, fungal, and oomycetes communities in root-zone soil.

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