Networks of free-living nematodes and co-extracted fungi, associated with symptoms of apple replant disease
Apple replant disease affects tree nurseries and apple production globally. After repeated planting in the same soil, apple roots show accumulation of phytoalexins, stunting, and blackening. Recently, we showed that nematodes extracted from replanted soil and co-extracted microbes triggered these symptoms, while pathogens or plant-parasitic nematodes could not explain the early disease development. To identify nematode-microbe complexes that coincide with replant disease, apple rootstocks were grown in the greenhouse in soils from five replanted sites for eight weeks. Nematodes were extracted by floatation from pots with stunted or normal plant growth, washed on a 20-μm sieve, and used for DNA extraction. Nematode communities and co-extracted fungi and bacteria were analyzed by high-throughput sequencing of amplified ribosomal fragments. The experiment was repeated in the next year. Regardless of soil type or year, the nematode and fungal communities significantly differed between pots with differential plant growth. Bacteria were not significantly associated with growth depression. Plant-parasitic nematodes or pathogens were not abundant in numbers that could explain the observed root damage. Free-living nematodes Prsimatolaimus, Acrobeles, Tylencholaimus, Acrobeloides, and Aphelenchus, and associated fungi Exophiala, Hohenbuehelia, Naganishia, Psathyrella, and unidentified members of Orbiliales, Helotiales, and Rhytismataceae significantly correlated with reduced plant growth. Isolating and investigating such disease complexes will give a chance to understand external biotic stress of apple roots and design mitigation measures.