The importance of microniches for the survival of introduced Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii cells was studied in sterilized and recolonized sterilized loamy sand and silt loam. The recolonized soils contained several species of soil microorganisms but were free of protozoa. Part of these soil samples was inoculated with the flagellate Bodo saltans, precultured on rhizobial cells. The introduced organisms were enumerated in different soil fractions by washing the soil, using a standardized washing procedure. With this method, free organisms and organisms associated with soil particles or aggregates >50 μm were separated. The total number of rhizobia was influenced slightly (silt loam) or not at all (loamy sand) by the recolonization with microorganisms or by the addition of flagellates alone. However, when both flagellates and microorganisms were present, numbers of rhizobia decreased drastically. This decrease was more than the sum of both effects separately. Nevertheless, populations of rhizobia were still higher than in natural soil. In the presence of flagellates, higher percentages of rhizobia and other microorganisms were associated with soil particles or aggregates >50 μm than in the absence of flagellates. In recolonized soils, however, the percentages of particle-associated rhizobia were lower than in soils not recolonized previous to inoculation. Thus, the presence of other microorganisms hindered rhizobial colonization of sites where they are normally associated with soil particles or aggregates.
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