Behaviour of the fungus Rhizoctonia solani Kiihn in the soil


  • *This investigation, which was carried out during the writer's tenure of the Macmillan Brown Agricultural Research Scholarship of the University of New Zealand, 1939-41, was completed at the Dominion Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Winnipeg, Canada.


Rhizoctonia solani was found able to grow as a saprophyte through natural unsterilized soil. Its rate of growth under different soil conditions in glass tumblers was studied by the Rossi-Cholodny soil-plate method. Growth was most rapid at the lowest soil-moisture content tested, viz. 30 % saturation, and was accelerated by forced aeration of the soil. The maximum distance to which mycelial growth could be supported on the food reserves of the agar inoculum alone was some 5 cm., as shown by extent of growth through tubes of moist sand, but in 23 days the fungus grew 21–24 cm through tubes of soil. Removal of the agar disk 2 days after inoculation of the tubes reduced growth through sand by more than half, but through soil by only a small proportion. In soil, Rhizoctonia was able to cause 100% damping-off of radish seedlings planted at a radial distance of 4 cm. from the agar inoculum, and some 40 % damping-off at a distance of 9 cm. The depressing effect of additions of 1 % ground-wheat straw or dried grass to the soil upon growth of the fungus was attributed to (1) the negligible cellulose-decomposing ability of Rhizoctonia, (2) nitrogen starvation of the mycelium, through rapid utilization of the available soil nitrogen by the cellulose-decomposing micro-organisms multiplying upon the fresh organic material, (3) fungistatic action on Rhizoctonia of the respiratory carbon dioxide produced by the cellulose-decomposers.