Plants can influence the soil they grow in, and via these changes in the soil they can positively or negatively influence other plants that grow later in this soil, a phenomenon called plant-soil feedback. A fascinating possibility is then to apply positive plant-soil feedback effects in sustainable agriculture to promote plant growth and resistance to pathogens. We grew the cut flower chrysanthemum (Dendranthema X grandiflora) in sterile soil inoculated with soil collected from a grassland that was subsequently conditioned by 37 plant species of three functional groups (grass, forb, legume), and compared it to growth in 100% sterile soil (control). We tested the performance of chrysanthemum by measuring plant growth, and defense (leaf chlorogenic acid concentration) and susceptibility to the oomycete pathogen Pythium ultimum. In presence of Pythium, belowground biomass of chrysanthemum declined but aboveground biomass was not affected compared to non-Pythium inoculated plants. We observed strong differences among species and among functional groups in their plant-soil feedback effects on chrysanthemum. Soil inocula that were conditioned by grasses produced higher chrysanthemum above- and belowground biomass, less yellowness than inocula conditioned by legumes or forbs. Chrysanthemum showed lower root/shoot ratio in response to Pythium in soil conditioned by forb than by grass. Leaf chlorogenic acid concentrations increased in presence of Pythium and correlated positively with chrysanthemum aboveground biomass. Although chlorogenic acid differed between soil inocula, it did not differ between functional groups. There was no relationship between the phylogenetic distance of conditioning plant species to chrysanthemum and their plant-soil feedback effects on chrysanthemum. Our study provides novel evidence that plant-soil feedback effects can influence crop health, and shows that plant-soil feedbacks, plant disease susceptibility, and plant aboveground defense compounds are tightly linked. Moreover, we highlight the relevance of considering plant-soil feedbacks in sustainable horticulture, and the larger role of grasses compared to legumes or forbs in this.
Ma, H., Pineda, A., van der Wurff, A. W. G., Raaijmakers, C., & Bezemer, T. M. (2017). Plant–Soil Feedback Effects on Growth, Defense and Susceptibility to a Soil-Borne Disease in a Cut Flower Crop: Species and Functional Group Effects. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, . https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2017.02127