Habitable pore space and survival of Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii introduced into soil

J. Postma*, J.A. van Veen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    109 Citations (Scopus)


    The hypothesis that the population size of introduced bacteria is affected by habitable pore space was studied by varying moisture content and bulk density in sterilized, as well as in natural loamy sand and silt loam. The soils were inoculated with Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii and established and maintained at soil water potentials between -5 and -20 kPa (pF 1.7 and 2.3). Rhizobial cells were enumerated when population sizes were expected to be more or less stable. In sterilized soils, the rhizobial numbers were not affected or decreased only slightly when water potentials increased from -20 to -5 kPa. In natural soils, the decrease in rhizobial numbers with increasing water potentials was more pronounced. Bulk density had only minor effects on the population sizes of rhizobia or total bacteria. Soil water retention curves of both soils were used to calculate volume and surface area of pores from different diameter classes, and an estimation of the habitable pore space was made. Combining these values of the theoretical habitable pore space with the measured rhizobial numbers showed that only 0.37 and 0.44% of the habitable pore space was occupied in the sterilized loamy sand and silt loam, respectively. The situation in natural soil is more complicated, since a whole variety of microorganisms is present. Nevertheless, it was suggested that, in general, pore space does not limit proliferation and growth of soil microorganisms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-161
    Number of pages13
    JournalMicrobial Ecology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1990

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