, Volume 71, Issue 6, pp 942-952
Date: 05 Jan 2006

Bacterial diversity in a finished compost and vermicompost: differences revealed by cultivation-independent analyses of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes

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Bacterial communities are important catalysts in the production of composts. Here, it was analysed whether the diversity of bacteria in finished composts is stable and specific for the production process. Single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) based on polymerase chain reaction amplified partial 16S rRNA genes was used to profile and analyse bacterial communities found in total DNA extracted from finished composts. Different batches of compost samples stored over a period of 12 years and a 1-year-old vermicompost were compared to each other. According to digital image analysis, clear differences could be detected between the profiles from compost and vermicompost. Differences between three different periods of compost storage and between replicate vermicompost windrows were only minor. A total of 41 different 16S rRNA genes were identified from the SSCP profiles by DNA sequencing, with the vast majority related to yet-uncultivated bacteria. Sequences retrieved from compost mainly belonged to the phyla Actinobacteria and Firmicutes. In contrast, vermicompost was dominated by bacteria related to uncultured Chloroflexi, Acidobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Gemmatimonadetes. The differences were underscored with specific gene probes and Southern blot hybridizations. The results confirmed that different substrates and composting processes selected for specific bacterial communities in the finished products. The specificity and consistency of the bacterial communities inhabiting the compost materials suggest that cultivation-independent bacterial community analysis is a potentially useful indicator to characterize the quality of finished composts in regard to production processes and effects of storage conditions.