Factors associated with soils suppressive to black scurf of potato caused by Rhizoctonia solani
Keywords:Rhizoctonia solani, black scurf, stem canker, potato, suppressive soils, soil microbes
Soils in which disease fails to develop despite pathogen presence are considered disease-suppressive. They offer sustainable, effective protection to plants against infection by soil-borne pathogens. Naturally disease-suppressive soils have been reported for diseases of a diverse range of agricultural crops worldwide yet the underlying mechanisms of disease suppression are still not completely understood. Two large greenhouse experiments, conducted during 2017/18 (Year 1) and 2018/19 (Year 2), determined that soils naturally suppressive to stem canker and black scurf of potato (caused by Rhizoctonia solani) are present in vegetable-arable cropping soils of the Auckland and Waikato regions of New Zealand. Soil was pre-treated with heat prior to inoculation with R. solani and compared with untreated and uninoculated controls to ascertain if stem canker and black scurf suppression was ‘general’, or ‘specific’ (i.e. transferable; possibly involving specific microorganisms). Rhizoctonia solani inoculation was also combined with transfer of one part test soil to nine parts of a known disease-conducive soil. Abiotic factors such as soil texture and organic matter content influenced black scurf incidence and severity. Soil microorganisms were also involved in disease suppression since black scurf incidence and severity markedly increased when they were eliminated or reduced by soil heat pre-treatment. Microbial profiling of the soils through sequencing revealed that taxa of geographically close soils of the same type had similar fungal and bacterial community structure and diversity even though they differed in their capacity to suppress black scurf. These results suggest that although the soil microbiome as a whole, was mainly responsible for soil disease suppressiveness, certain bacterial genera or species may play a role in black scurf suppression.