, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 345-354

Thermophilic fungi: An assessment of their potential for growth in soil

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Abstract

An attempt has been made to forecast the potential of thermophilic fungi to grow in soil in the laboratory and in the field in the presence of a predominantly mesophilic fungal flora at usual temperature. The respiratory rate of thermophilic fungi was markedly responsive to changes in temperature, but that of mesophilic fungi was relatively independent of such changes. This suggested that in a thermally fluctuating environment, thermophilic fungi may be at a physiological disadvantage compared to mesophilic fungi. In mixed cultures in soil plates, thermophilic fungi outgrew mesophilic fungi under a fluctuating temperature regime only when the amplitude of the fluctuating temperatures was small and approached their temperature optima for growth. An antibody probe was used to detect the activity of native or an introduced strain of a thermophilic fungus,Thermomyces lanuginosus, under field conditions. The results suggest that although widespread, thermophilic fungi are ordinarily not an active component of soil microflora. Their presence in soil most likely may be the result of the aerial dissemination of propagules from composting plant material.