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Inhibition of respiration, germination, and growth by substances arising during the decomposition of certain plant residues in the soil

Inhibition of respiration, germination, and growth by substances arising during the decomposition of certain plant residues in the soil

Canadian Jour Bot 36(5): 621-647

Substances capable of markedly inhibiting the respiration, germination, and growth of tobacco seedlings were obtained after residues from timothy, corn, rye, or tobacco plants had been allowed to decompose under appropriate conditions in the soil. Bio-assay tests, based on manometric methods, made it possible to determine some of the conditions under which the decomposition gave rise to phytotoxic by-products and to obtain rapidly an accurate measure of the degree of their toxicity. Among the factors influencing the production of the toxic products, the species and stage of maturity of plant material added, the water content and pH of the soil, and length of decomposition period seemed most important. Substances capable of reducing the respiration of tobacco seedlings by 50-90% were consistently obtained when any of the above-mentioned plant residues had been decomposing for 15-25 days under conditions of high soil moisture and when the pH of the soil solution was below 5.5 throughout this period. Timothy gave rise to substances possessing the highest toxic activity, followed by corn, then rye, and finally tobacco. Aqueous extracts of unamended soil or of macerated plant tissues prepared either before decomposition had taken place or when decomposition was inhibited by autoclaving the soil were not toxic. The toxic substances, obtained by water extraction, exhibited an inhibiting effect on respiration of tobacco seedlings after an exposure of less than one hour and also induced darkening and necrosis of root cells. Some extracts affected the cells of the apical meristem most severely while others affected only the cells of the elongation region. While the toxic substances have not been identified, they were relatively nonspecific in their action, affecting tobacco, timothy, and barley in approximately the same manner and in many instances possessed also antifungal activity. They were soluble in water, insoluble in petroleum ether, stable in acid, and most active in the pH range 4.5-5.8. They were precipitated by alkali and the activity was markedly reduced when readjusted to the acid range. They were also heat stable and did not lose their activity in storage at 1[degree]-3[degree]C provided they were covered by a layer of toluene. Because of their rapid production and the makred injurious effects exerted on various plants it is believed that these toxins may perform a significant role in the field as the primary cause of some root rots and in predisposing plants to attack by organisms not normally regarded as pathogenic.

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Accession: 014082909

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DOI: 10.1139/b58-058

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