Cellulose-rich amendments stimulate saprotrophic fungi in arable soils. This may increase competitive and antagonistic interactions with root-infecting pathogenic fungi, resulting in lower disease incidence. However, cellulose-rich amendments may also stimulate pathogenic fungi with saprotrophic abilities, thereby increasing plant disease severity. The current study explores these scenarios, with a focus on the pathogenic fungus Rhizoctonia solani. Saprotrophic growth of R. solani on cellulose-rich materials was tested in vitro. This confirmed paper pulp as a highly suitable substrate for R. solani, whereas its performance on wood sawdusts varied with tree species. In two pot experiments, the effects of amendment of R. solani-infected soil with cellulose-rich materials on performance of beetroot seedlings were tested. All deciduous sawdusts and paper pulp stimulated soil fungal biomass, but only oak, elder and beech sawdusts reduced damping-off of beetroot. Oak sawdust amendment gave a consistent stimulation of saprotrophic Sordariomycetes fungi and of seedling performance, independently of the time between amendment and sowing. In contrast, paper pulp caused a short-term increase in R. solani abundance, coinciding with increased disease severity for beet seedlings sown immediately after amendment. However, damping-off of beetroot was reduced if plants were sown two or four weeks after paper pulp amendment. Cellulolytic bacteria, including Cytophagaceae, responded to paper pulp during the first two weeks and may have counteracted further spread of R. solani. The results showed that fungus-stimulating, cellulose-rich amendments have potential to be used for suppression of R. solani. However, such amendments require a careful consideration of material choice and application strategy.
|Date made available||18 Jun 2021|