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Microb Ecol. 1994 Jan;27(1):81-97. doi: 10.1007/BF00170116.

The use of colony development for the characterization of bacterial communities in soil and on roots.

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Microbiology and Crop Protection Department, Horticulture Research International, Worthing Road, BN17 6LP, Littlehampton, West Sussex, UK.


A simple agar plating method for the description of microbial communities is described. This method is based on the quantification of the numbers of bacterial colonies in 6-7 age-based classes as they appear on agar media over a period of 6-10 days. The method can be used to quantify microbial communities in different habitats (roots and soil) and can be related to the ecophysiology of the microbial communities present. Significant differences in distribution patterns were found in time and depth on the roots. In general, as roots matured, the microbial communities changed from one dominated by r-strategists to one that was more distributed towards K-strategists. The soil had the greatest percentage of organisms that could be characterized as K-strategists. The method was also used to compare microbial communities on wheat roots and in soil in both the field and in microcosms in the glasshouse. In general, the method enabled differentiation between r- and K-strategists in environmental samples, something that could not be done using an ecophysiological index (a modification of the Shannon diversity index) or total bacterial numbers alone.


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