Rhizosphere bacteria were isolated from root tip segments of cucumber seedlings grown in a suppressive, slightly decomposed light-colored peat mix, a conducive, more decomposed dark-colored peat mix, and a suppressive dark peat mix amended with composted hardwood bark. The bacteria were identified by a gas chromatographic fatty acid methyl ester analysis. The total number of taxa recovered from a single root tip segment ranged from 9 to 18. No single taxon predominated on all root tip segments harvested from any of the mixes. The highest relative population density reached by a given taxon on any root tip segment was 45%. Hill's first and second diversity numbers, the modified Hill's ratio, and Hurlbert's rarefaction method, which were used as measures of species diversity, indicated that the organic matter decomposition level of the potting mixes did not affect bacterial species diversity. Bray-Curtis polar ordination and Dice resemblance functions, however, indicated that the organic matter decomposition level of a mix significantly influenced the composition of bacterial species in the rhizosphere. Pseudomonas spp. and other taxa capable of inducing suppression of pythium damping-off predominated in the suppressive mixes. These organisms were absent from the conducive mix, in which Arthrobacter and Bacillus spp. predominated. Although effective bacterial biocontrol agents were isolated from both the suppressive mixes and the conducive mix, the majority were isolated from the less decomposed suppressive mixes. Finally, the efficacy of strains was significantly greater in the slightly decomposed light peat mix than in the decomposed dark peat mix. Natural disease suppression within these mixes was associated with the organic matter decomposition level and the bacterial species compositions of the mixes
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