Analyzing pathogen suppressiveness in bioassays with natural soils using integrative maximum likelihood methods in R

Björn C. Rall, Ellen Latz

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
131 Downloads (Pure)


The potential of soils to naturally suppress inherent plant pathogens is an important ecosystem function. Usually, pathogen infection assays are used for estimating the suppressive potential of soils. In natural soils, however, co-occurring pathogens might simultaneously infect plants complicating the estimation of a focal pathogen’s infection rate (initial slope of the infection-curve) as a measure of soil suppressiveness. Here, we present a method in R correcting for these unwanted effects by developing a two pathogen mono-molecular infection model. We fit the two pathogen mono-molecular infection model to data by using an integrative approach combining a numerical simulation of the model with an iterative maximum likelihood fit. We show that in presence of co-occurring pathogens using uncorrected data leads to a critical under- or overestimation of soil suppressiveness measures. In contrast, our new approach enables to precisely estimate soil suppressiveness measures such as plant infection rate and plant resistance time. Our method allows a correction of measured infection parameters that is necessary in case different pathogens are present. Moreover, our model can be (1) adapted to use other models such as the logistic or the Gompertz model; and (2) it could be extended by a facilitation parameter if infections in plants increase the susceptibility to new infections. We propose our method to be particularly useful for exploring soil suppressiveness of natural soils from different sites (e.g., in biodiversity experiments).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2615
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2016


  • Infected control treatments, Maximum likelihood estimation, Ordinary differential equation, Mono-molecular infection model, Biodiversity, Soil resistance, R, bbmle, DeSolve, Programming manual
  • international


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