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Effects Of Marigold (Tagetes Sp.) Roots On Soil Microorganisms

E. Topp, S. Millar, H. Bork, M. Welsh
Published 1998 · Biology

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Abstract Marigolds (genus Tagetes) suppress populations of soil endopathogenic nematodes such as Pratylenchus penetrans and Meloidogyne species. Nematode suppression by marigolds is thought to be due to thiophenes, heterocyclic sulfur-containing molecules abundant in this plant. When activated, thiophenes such as α-terthienyl produce oxygen radicals. If marigold roots release such a powerful biocidal agent and it is activated in soil, microbial populations in the marigold rhizosphere should be substantially perturbed. We made various measurements of microbial population size and activity in soils that had been cropped to marigolds (Crackerjack, Creole) in the field and in the greenhouse, and compared these with bare soil and soil cropped to rye (Secale cereale L.). Total extractable microbial biomass (measured by the fumigation extraction method), total bacteria (measured by epifluorescence microscopy on 5-(4,6-dichlorotriazine-2-γl) aminofluorescein-stained preparations), heterotrophic bacteria (measured by plate count on various media), and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (measured by the most-probable-number method) were not significantly different in any of the treatments. Residues of 14C-labelled rye were mineralized slightly more rapidly in rye-cropped soil than in the other treatments, which were comparable. The rates of die-back of introduced cells of the bacteria Escherichia coli and Rhodococcus TE1 were similar in marigold-cropped and control soils, suggesting that there was not a noteworthy accumulation of biocidal agents in soils cropped to marigolds. We conclude that marigolds do not cause a general depression in the numbers of microorganisms in soils, and that nematode control by this plant may not be due to the release of a biocidal agent into the soil.
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