World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 18, Issue 7, pp 661–671 | Cite as

Microbial studies of compost: bacterial identification, and their potential for turfgrass pathogen suppression

  • Jeanine I. Boulter
  • Jack T. Trevors
  • Greg J. Boland


Composting is the degradation of organic materials through the activities of diverse microorganisms. This research examined microbial community dynamics, population levels and identification of bacteria throughout the composting process and in storage. In addition, an evaluation was performed to determine the potential for dominant bacterial isolates to suppress selected turfgrass pathogens: Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, Pythium graminicola, Typhula ishikariensis, and Microdochium nivale, responsible for causing the turfgrass diseases dollar spot, pythium blight, typhula blight, and fusarium patch, respectively. Composts supported high population levels of bacteria with 78% of cultures tested being Gram-negative. Proteolytic activity, found in 29% of cultures tested is a potential mechanism of suppression or competition with other microorganisms. Although the Biolog system did not identify a wide range of bacteria, the main Gram-negative genera identified in mature compost were Pseudomonas (28%), Serratia (20%), Klebsiella (11%), and Enterobacter (5%). Twenty-one percent of isolates tested were not identified by Biolog, and many more had similarity indexes < 0.50. The microbial identification system, based on whole cell fatty acid analysis, identified a wide range of bacteria, with a higher proportion of similarities than the Biolog system. Genera common to both testing procedures included Pseudomonas, Serratia, and Enterobacter. All Gram-positives were identified as Bacillus spp. Phospholipid fatty acid analysis, used to estimate the diversity of microbial communities, was useful in monitoring changes in microbial population in storage and during composting, as well as estimating levels of compost maturity. Plate challenge experiments revealed a number of cultures with antagonistic activity against turfgrass pathogens. There were 52, 31, 32 and 19% of the bacterial isolates tested that exhibited antagonistic activity against S. homoeocarpa, P. graminicola, T. ishikariensis, and M. nivale, respectively. Improved understanding of microbial populations and their dynamics in composts will expand their potential to act as suppressants on pathogenic fungi or turfgrass.

Bacteria compost biocontrol disease suppression grey snow mould diversity fungi pathogen pink snow mould phospholipid analysis plant microorganism turfgrass 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeanine I. Boulter
    • 1
  • Jack T. Trevors
    • 1
  • Greg J. Boland
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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