Population dynamics of bacteria introduced into bentonite amended soil

C. Heijnen

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU


    <p>Bacteria have frequently been introduced into the soil environment, e.g. for increasing crop production or for biological control purposes. Many applications require high numbers of surviving organisms in order to be effective. However, survival of bacteria after introduction into soil is generally poor, and numbers of introduced bacteria have been known to decrease from 10 <sup><font size="-2">9</font></SUP>to approximately 10 <sup><font size="-2">3</font></SUP>cells/g soil in 25 days. Thus, if bacteria are to be used as effective microbial inoculants to, a means to increase survival levels in soil needs to be found.<p>Survival of <em>Rhizobium</em> leguminosarum biovar <em>trifolii</em> introduced into loamy sand was found to be greatly enhanced by amendments of bentonite, in amounts of 5 or 10%, to the soil. Bentonite appeared to offer introduced bacteria protection against protozoan predation, resulting in increased bacterial survival levels in bentonite amended soil as compared to unamended soil.<p>Also in liquid cultures, protozoan activity was strongly hampered by the presence of bentonite, thereby also improving the survival of <em>Rhizobium.</em> Bentonite did not release any substances toxic to protozoa in liquid cultures, and presumably this would not occur in the soil environment either. Bentonite toxicity could therefore not explain the increased survival levels of bacteria introduced into bentonite amended soil. It was suggested that, in liquid cultures, bentonite clay increased the minimum level of bacteria for effective predation by protozoa.<p>Changes in soil structure as a result of bentonite additions could explain the observed increases in bacterial survival levels. A mathematical relationship was found describing the log numbers of introduced rhizobia surviving in soil samples after an incubation period of 57 days using 3 pore size classes. Pores with necks &lt; 3 μm and between 3 and 6 μm positively affected survival levels. These pores apparently were large enough to allow bacteria to enter, but were too small to be accessible to predating protozoa. Pores with necks between 6 and 15 μm had a negative influence on rhizobial survival levels, because bacteria situated inside these relatively large pores could be reached and predated upon by protozoa. Therefore, pores &lt; 6 μm were found so serve as protective microhabitats for bacteria introduced into soil. A larger number of such protective microhabitats in bentonite amended loamy sand than in unamended loamy sand could explain the observed increase in survival levels of bacteria introduced into bentonite amended soil. The colonization potential of protective microhabitats was suggested to be determined largely by pore shape and the continuity of the water-filled pore system. Increased numbers of protective microhabitats (pores &lt; 6 μm) in bentonite-amended soil as compared to unamended soil were demonstrated visually by micro-morphoiogical studies using Cryo Scanning Electron Microscopy.<p>The effectiveness of bentonite was strongly determined by the way in which the clay and the inoculum were added to the soil. When a bentonite suspension and bacteria were mixed together prior to inoculation, the clay offered more protection against predation than when bentonite powder and bacteria were added separately. This suggested that when the protective agent was present at the site of introduction, a more efficient use of the clay could be made, resulting in enhanced survival levels.<p>Apart from survival, bentonite additions to soil also influenced bacterial respiration. The cumulative amount of CO <sub><font size="-2">2</font></sub> respired by rhizobia introduced into sterile bentonite- amended loamy sand was significantly higher than in unamended loamy sand. Carbon was used more efficiently during growth in bentonite-amended than in unamended loamy sand. The maintenance respiration of rhizobial cells was not influenced by the presence of bentonite clay. The growth rate of rhizobia introduced into sterile soil was increased by the presence of bentonite.<p><em>Pseudomonas fluorescens</em> was also found to survive at higher levels in bentoniteamended than in unamended soil, suggesting the bentonite effects were not limited to <em>Rhizobium</em> only. <em>Pseudomonas fluorescens</em> was used to study root colonization by bacteria introduced into bentonite amended soil. A rhizosphere effect (i.e. the occurrence of higher cell concentrations in rhizosphere soil than in bulk soil) was observed both in the absence and in the presence of bentonite clay, but it was less pronounced in the latter case. This finding suggested that bacteria were physically hindered by bentonite, making it more difficult to invade the immediate root environment. However, protection against predation by bentonite enhanced survival to such an extent, that overall survival in the rhizosphere was still higher in bentonite amended loamy sand than in the unamended soil.<p>It can be concluded from this thesis that soil structure, and especially the pore size distribution of the soil is a key factor determining the survival, chances of bacteria introduced into soil. Application of introduced bacteria for e.g. biological control will probably stand a larger chance of being successful in soils with relatively high numbers of pores &lt; 6 μm However, it is unlikely that bentonite will ever be applied to soil in amounts of e.g. 5%, because of the large impact of bentonite additions on, for example, the moisture characteristics of the soil. However, the knowledge obtained on the importance of the pore size distribution of a soil, and the fact that the she of introduction of the bacteria will largely determine survival chances, will be of great importance for the future development of successful carrier materials for introducing bacteria into soil.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • van Breemen, N., Promotor
    • van Veen, J.A., Promotor, External person
    Award date10 Jun 1992
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publication statusPublished - 1992


    • soil bacteria
    • nitrogen fixing bacteria
    • symbiosis
    • rhizobium
    • soil structure
    • improvement
    • sand
    • soil conditioners
    • natural resources
    • clay minerals
    • bentonite
    • pseudomonas

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