Apple Replant Disease: Causes and Mitigation Strategies
After replanting apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) on the same site severe growth suppressions, and a decline in yield and fruit quality are observed in all apple producing areas worldwide. The causes of this complex phenomenon, called apple replant disease (ARD), are only poorly understood up to now which is in part due to inconsistencies in terms and methodologies. Therefore we suggest the following definition for ARD: ARD describes a harmfully disturbed physiological and morphological reaction of apple plants to soils that faced alterations in their (micro-) biome due to the previous apple cultures. The underlying interactions likely have multiple causes that extend beyond common analytical tools in microbial ecology. They are influenced by soil properties, faunal vectors, and trophic cascades, with genotype-specific effects on plant secondary metabolism, particularly phytoalexin biosynthesis. Yet, emerging tools allow to unravel the soil and rhizosphere (micro-) biome, to characterize alterations of habitat quality, and to decipher the plant reactions. Thereby, deep insights into the reactions taking place at the root rhizosphere interface will be gained. Counteractions are suggested, taking into account that culture management should emphasize on improving soil microbial and faunal diversity as well as habitat quality rather than focus on soil disinfection.