Root growth, function and rhizosphere microbiome analyses show local rather than systemic effects in apple plant response to replant disease soil
Apple replant disease (ARD) is the phenomenon of soil decline occurring after repeated planting of apple trees at the same site. This study aimed to elucidate whether ARD is systemic, i.e. whether the contact of parts of the root system with ARD soil causes the whole plant to show poor shoot and root growth. A split-root experiment was conducted with seedlings of ‘M26’, offering the same plant for its root system the choice between the substrates ARD soil (+ARD), γ-sterilized ARD soil (-ARD) or soil from a grass parcel (Control) with the following combinations: +ARD/+ARD, -ARD/-ARD; +ARD/-ARD; +ARD/Control. Root growth was analysed throughout the 34-day growing period. Samples from bulk, rhizosphere and rhizoplane soil were collected separately for each compartment, and analysed by fingerprints of 16S rRNA gene or ITS fragments amplified from total community (TC) DNA. The response of the plant to +ARD was not systemic as root growth in -ARD compartment was always superior to root growth in +ARD soil. Crosswise 15N-labelling of the N-fertilizer applied to the split-root compartments showed that nitrate-N uptake efficiency was higher for roots in -ARD soil compared to those in +ARD. Bacterial and fungal community composition in the rhizoplane and rhizosphere of the same plants differed significantly between the compartments containing +ARD/-ARD or +ARD/Control. The strongest differences between the bacterial fingerprints were observed in the rhizoplane and rhizosphere. Bacterial genera with increased abundance in response to ARD were mainly Streptomyces but also Sphingobium, Novosphingobium, Rhizobium, Lysobacter and Variovorax. The strongest differences between the fungal fingerprints were observed in bulk soil. Our data showed that the response of the apple plant to ARD soil is local and not systemic.