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Soil And Plant Effects On Microbial Community Structure

Jeffrey S Buyer, Daniel P Roberts, Estelle Russek-Cohen

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We investigated the effects of two different plant species (corn and soybean) and three different soil types on microbial community structure in the rhizosphere. Our working hypothesis was that the rhizosphere effect would be strongest on fast-growing aerobic heterotrophs, while there would be little or no rhizosphere effect on oligotrophic and other slow-growing microorganisms. Culturable bacteria and fungi had larger population densities in the rhizosphere than in bulk soil. Communities were characterized by soil fatty acid analysis and by substrate utilization assays for bacteria and fungi. Fatty acid analysis revealed a very strong soil effect but little plant effect on the microbial community, indicating that the overall microbial community structure was not affected by the rhizosphere. There was a strong rhizosphere effect detected by the substrate utilization assay for fast-growing aerobic heterotrophic bacterial community structure, with soil controls and rhizosphere samples clearly distinguished from each other. There was a much weaker rhizosphere effect on fungal communities than on bacterial communities as measured by the substrate utilization assays. At this coarse level of community analysis, the rhizosphere microbial community was impacted most by soil effects, and the rhizosphere only affected a small portion of the total bacteria.Key words: rhizosphere, microbial community, fatty acid, substrate utilization.