Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 232–238 | Cite as

Cyanide production by rhizobacteria as a possible mechanism of plant growth inhibition

  • S. Alström
  • R. G. Burns


Volatile metabolites from a number of rhizosphere pseudomonads prevented lettuce root growth in a seedling bioassay. One of these metabolites was identified as cyanide. Direct contact between rhizobacteria and plant roots produced, with one exception, similar responses. However, not all cyanogenic isolates were plant-growth-inhibitory rhizobacteria. When grown in liquid culture, cyanogenic strains produced an average of 37 nmol HCN ml−1 over a 36-h period and inhibition of root growth occurred at concentrations as low as 20 nmol ml−1. Cyanogenic strains introduced into sand or soil also produced HCN. Two cyanogenic strains ofPseudomonas fluorescens, one (5241) a plant-growth inhibitory rhizobacterium and the other (S97) a plant-growth-promotory rhizobacterium, were used to treat bean and lettuce seedlings prior to planting in soil. Lettuce dry weight was reduced by 49.2% (day 28) and 37.4% (day 49) when inoculated with S241 whereas S97 increased growth initially (+64.5% at day 28, no difference from control at day 49). Equivalent figures for inoculated bean plants were: −52.9% and −65.1% (5241); +40.7% and +23.3% (S97). A more detailed experiment using only bean plants confirmed these contrasting affects. Inhibition by S241 was related to consistently higher levels of rhizosphere cyanide in comparison with S97-treated plants and control soils. S241 also survived in the rhizosphere at higher densities and for a longer period of time than S97. The possible contribution of rhizobacterial cyanogenesis to plant growth inhibition is discussed.

Key words

Plant growth inhibition rhizobacteria Cyanide Microbial inoculation Pseudomonas fluorescens Rifampicin 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Alström
    • 1
  • R. G. Burns
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Plant and Forest ProtectionSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Biological LaboratoryUniversity of KentCanterbury, KentUK

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