The potential of Biological Soil Disinfestation (BSD) to control potato brown rot, caused by Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2, was investigated. BSD involves the induction of anaerobic soil conditions by increasing microbial respiration through incorporation of fresh organic amendments (here: grass or potato haulms) and by reducing re-supply of oxygen by covering with airtight plastic sheets. Control treatments were left without cover and amendment, or amended without covering or covered only without amendment. The effect of BSD on survival of R. solanacearum was tested at three different scales: in 1-l glass mesocosms under laboratory conditions, in 1.2-m-diam microplots positioned in an outdoor quarantine field, and in a naturally infested commercial field. Within a few days, anaerobic conditions developed in the BSD-treated soils. In the mesocosm and microplot experiment, anaerobic conditions persisted till the end of the 4-week experimental period. In the field experiment, the period of anaerobiosis was shorter due to birds damaging the plastic cover. In all three experiments, BSD reduced soil populations of R. solanacearum significantly by 92.5% to >99.9% compared to the non-amended and uncovered control treatments. In the field experiment, BSD also resulted in a significant reduction of R. solanacearum survival in potato tubers buried at 15 or 35 cm and in the rapid decomposition of superficially buried potatoes remaining after harvesting, thus destroying an important inoculum reservoir of R. solanacearum. The treatments with grass amendment only or covering with only plastic did not result in anaerobic conditions and did not decrease R. solanacearum populations during the experimental period. PCR-DGGE analyses of 16S-rDNA from soil samples of the various treatments in the mesocosm and microplot experiments revealed that BSD hardly affected bacterial diversity but did result in clear shifts in the composition of the bacterial community. The possible implications of these shifts are discussed. It is concluded that BSD has the potential to strongly decrease soil infestation levels of R. solanacearum and to become an important element in a sustainable and effective management strategy for potato brown rot, especially in areas where the disease is endemic.
- gradient gel-electrophoresis
- organic amendments