Monitoring microbial functional and structural diversity for management of disease-suppressive soils

A.V. McBeath, D.J. East, C.L. Wright, A.B. Pattison
The activities of the soil microbiota are essential to the long-term sustainability of agricultural systems, through their influences on biological, chemical and physical processes, which drive essential ecosystem services. Moreover, changes in microbial communities are considered as precursors to changes in the health and viability of the soil environment, due to their responses to changes in agricultural management practices. Therefore, measurements of soil microbial activity and diversity are ideal indicators for monitoring soil status and the efficacy of soil management. However, due to the vast taxonomic diversity of soil microorganisms, analysis of microbial diversity is often problematic, time consuming and costly. Two banana experiments were established in far north Queensland, Australia, under different nutrient and groundcover management practices, to understand the dynamic changes in soil microbial communities and their effectiveness to sustain ecosystem services, such as organic matter decomposition and disease suppression. Using a functional approach, soil biological communities were analysed using trophic analysis of soil nematode communities, community level physiological profiles and enzyme activity assays. A reduction in nitrogen fertiliser inputs was related to a greater number of fungivorous nematodes which was also linked to greater suppression of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense using a novel soil-baiting bioassay. Furthermore, community-level physiological profiles enabled differentiation of soils over time demonstrating a shift in soil microbial functional diversity. The results highlight how soil management can drive differences in soil microbial activity and diversity to improve soil functions in banana production.
McBeath, A.V., East, D.J., Wright, C.L. and Pattison, A.B. (2018). Monitoring microbial functional and structural diversity for management of disease-suppressive soils. Acta Hortic. 1196, 121-128
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1196.14
community-level physiological profiles, disease suppression, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, microbial diversity

Acta Horticulturae