Population sizes, immigration, and growth of epiphytic bacteria on leaves of different ages and positions of field-grown endive (Cichorium endivia var. latifolia)

M. A. Jacques, L. L. Kinkel, C. E. Morris

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Total, fluorescent, and pectolytic epiphytic bacterial population sizes were quantified on leaves of different age groups of broad-leaved endive during field cultivation from leaf emergence until harvest. Greater bacterial population densities (log10 CFU per square centimeter) were observed on outer leaves than on inner leaves of the plants throughout the growing season. These differences were statistically significant for total bacterial populations at all sampling times and were often significant for fluorescent and pectolytic bacterial populations. At harvest, a linear gradient of decreasing densities of epiphytic bacteria from outer (older) to inner (younger) leaves of the head was significant. Leaf age influenced the frequency distribution and variability of bacterial population sizes associated with leaves of broad-leaved endive. Total bacterial population sizes were greater at leaf emergence for leaves emerging during the second half of the cultivation period than for leaves emerging earlier. The size of fluorescent and pectolytic bacterial populations on newly emerged leaves increased throughout the season as plants aged. To assess the importance of plant age on bacterial immigration at leaf emergence, bacterial densities were quantified on leaves emerging simultaneously on plants of different ages. In two of the three experiments, greater bacterial population sizes were observed on leaves emerging on younger plants. This indicates that factors other than an increase in concentration of airborne bacteria can lead to increases in population sizes at leaf emergence as plants age in the field. Results of leaf pruning experiments suggested that adjacent leaves may act as a barrier for immigration of fluorescent bacteria on newly emerged leaves. Survival of an inoculated strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens on newly emerged leaves generally did not vary with the age of plants. However, these effects were not consistent among experiments, suggesting that interactions among micro- and macroenvironmental conditions, physiological condition of leaves, and accessibility of leaves to airborne bacteria are important in controlling epiphytic bacterial population sizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-906
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1995


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