Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2004
Publication Date: 10/1/2004
Citation: Burelle, N.K., Kloepper, J.W. 2004. SOIL ECOSYSTEM HEALTH AND ITS ROLE IN PLANT DISEASE SUPPRESSION. Book Chapter. 123-140. Interpretive Summary: In order to reduce dependence on energy intensive agricultural practices such as use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, it is necessary to develop a greater understanding of the dynamics of agricultural soil ecosystems and how these dynamics influence plant health. This understanding will enhance the performance and consistency of cultural control measures, and of biologically based pest management strategies by enabling users to make informed decisions regarding the conditions under which they are used. Ultimately, a greater understanding of the effect of soil ecology on host/pathogen relationships and crop productivity is necessary in order to design and implement sustainable crop production systems. Research challenges need to be addressed through a multidisciplinary, collaborative effort which considers many perspectives and employs all the techniques available to develop, evaluate, and apply soil quality management systems. Strategies that limit crop loss due to pathogens and reduce reliance on environmentally damaging inputs would conserve beneficial soil organisms and enhance the sustainability of agricultural production systems.
Technical Abstract: A greater understanding of soil ecology and its effect on host/pathogen relationships and crop productivity is necessary in order to design and implement sustainable crop production systems. Soil microbial communities in which antagonists to plant pathogens occur in stable populations are the underlying components of suppressive soils. Quantitative and qualitative assessment of biomass and activity in these agricultural soil ecosystems is essential in order to develop them when possible, and also to identify problems and monitor changes in environmental quality related to agricultural practices. However, the development of methodology to accurately quantify components of soil ecosystems and how they change over time in relation to each other has proven particularly challenging. Major advances in molecular techniques have been accomplished and these combined with new microbiological and imaging technologies have potential to provide more complete information regarding soil ecosystems.