Microbial Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 149–161 | Cite as

Habitable pore space and survival ofRhizobium leguminosarum biovartrifolii introduced into soil

  • J. Postma
  • J. A. van Veen


The hypothesis that the population size of introduced bacteria is affected by habitable pore space was studied by varying moisture content and bulk density in sterilized, as well as in natural loamy sand and silt loam. The soils were inoculated withRhizobium leguminosarum biovartrifolii and established and maintained at soil water potentials between −5 and −20 kPa (pF 1.7 and 2.3). Rhizobial cells were enumerated when population sizes were expected to be more or less stable. In sterilized soils, the rhizobial numbers were not affected or decreased only slightly when water potentials increased from −20 to −5 kPa. In natural soils, the decrease in rhizobial numbers with increasing water potentials was more pronounced. Bulk density had only minor effects on the population sizes of rhizobia or total bacteria. Soil water retention curves of both soils were used to calculate volume and surface area of pores from different diameter classes, and an estimation of the habitable pore space was made. Combining these values of the theoretical habitable pore space with the measured rhizobial numbers showed that only 0.37 and 0.44% of the habitable pore space was occupied in the sterilized loamy sand and silt loam, respectively. The situation in natural soil is more complicated, since a whole variety of microorganisms is present. Nevertheless, it was suggested that, in general, pore space does not limit proliferation and growth of soil microorganisms.


Population Size Soil Water Bulk Density Water Potential Rhizobium 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Postma
    • 1
  • J. A. van Veen
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Institute ItalWageningenThe Netherlands

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