Suppressiveness of 18 composts against 7 pathosystems: Variability in pathogen response

A.J. Termorshuizen, E. van Rijn, D.J. van der Gaag, C. Alabouvette, Y. Chen, J. Lagerlöf, A.A. Malandrakis, E.J. Paplomatas, B. Rämert, J. Ryckeboer, C. Steinberg, S. Zmora-Nahum

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Compost is often reported as a substrate that is able to suppress soilborne plant pathogens, but suppression varies according to the type of compost and pathosystem. Reports often deal with a single pathogen while in reality crops are attacked by multiple plant pathogens. The goal of the present study was to evaluate the disease suppression ability of a wide range of composts for a range of plant pathogens. This study was conducted by a consortium of researchers from several European countries. Composts originated from different countries and source materials including green and yard waste, straw, bark, biowaste and municipal sewage. Suppressiveness of compost-amended (20% vol./vol.) peat-based potting soil was determined against Verticillium dahliae on eggplant, Rhizoctonia solani on cauliflower, Phytophthora nicotianae on tomato, Phytophthora cinnamomi on lupin and Cylindrocladium spathiphylli on Spathiphyllum sp., and of compost-amended loamy soil (20% vol./vol.) against R. solani on Pinus sylvestris and Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lini on flax. From the 120 bioassays involving 18 composts and 7 pathosystems, significant disease suppression was found in 54% of the cases while only 3% of the cases showed significant disease enhancement. Pathogens were affected differently by the composts. In general, prediction of disease suppression was better when parameters derived from the compost mixes were used rather than those derived from the pure composts. Regression analyses of disease suppression of the individual pathogens with parameters of compost-amended peat-based mixes revealed the following groupings: (1) competition-sensitive: F. oxysporum and R. solani/cauliflower; (2) rhizosphere-affected: V. dahliae; (3) pH-related: P. nicotianae; and (4) specific/unknown: R. solani/pine, P. cinnamomi and C. spathiphylli. It was concluded that application of compost has in general a positive or no effect on disease suppression, and only rarely a disease stimulating effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2461-2477
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • soil microbial communities
  • soilborne plant-pathogens
  • rhizoctonia-solani
  • damping-off
  • phytophthora-cinnamomi
  • organic amendments
  • container media
  • pythium-ultimum
  • potting mixes
  • waste

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    Termorshuizen, A. J., van Rijn, E., van der Gaag, D. J., Alabouvette, C., Chen, Y., Lagerlöf, J., Malandrakis, A. A., Paplomatas, E. J., Rämert, B., Ryckeboer, J., Steinberg, C., & Zmora-Nahum, S. (2006). Suppressiveness of 18 composts against 7 pathosystems: Variability in pathogen response. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 38(8), 2461-2477.