Natural biological suppression of soil-borne diseases is a function of the activity and composition of soil microbial communities. Soil microbe and phytopathogen interactions can occur prior to crop sowing and/or in the rhizosphere, subsequently influencing both plant growth and productivity. Research on suppressive microbial communities has concentrated on bacteria although fungi can also influence soil-borne disease. Fungi were analyzed in co-located soils 'suppressive' or 'non-suppressive' for disease caused by Rhizoctonia solani AG 8 at two sites in South Australia using 454 pyrosequencing targeting the fungal 28S LSU rRNA gene. DNA was extracted from a minimum of 125 g of soil per replicate to reduce the micro-scale community variability, and from soil samples taken at sowing and from the rhizosphere at 7 weeks to cover the peak Rhizoctonia infection period. A total of ∼994,000 reads were classified into 917 genera covering 54% of the RDP Fungal Classifier database, a high diversity for an alkaline, low organic matter soil. Statistical analyses and community ordinations revealed significant differences in fungal community composition between suppressive and non-suppressive soil and between soil type/location. The majority of differences associated with suppressive soils were attributed to less than 40 genera including a number of endophytic species with plant pathogen suppression potentials and mycoparasites such as Xylaria spp. Non-suppressive soils were dominated by Alternaria , Gibberella and Penicillum. Pyrosequencing generated a detailed description of fungal community structure and identified candidate taxa that may influence pathogen-plant interactions in stable disease suppression.
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