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Open Access Impact of Organic and Conventional Management on the Phyllosphere Microbial Ecology of an Apple Crop

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Bacterial communities associated with the phyllosphere of apple trees (Malus domestica cv. Enterprise) grown under organic and conventional management were assessed to determine if increased biological food safety risks might be linked with the bacterial communities associated with either treatment. Libraries of 16S rRNA genes were generated from phyllosphere DNA extracted from a wash made from the surfaces of leaves and apples from replicated organic and conventional treatments. 16S rRNA gene libraries were analyzed with software designed to identify statistically significant differences between bacterial communities as well as shared and unique phylotypes. The identified diversity spanned eight bacterial phyla and 14 classes in the pooled organic and conventional libraries. Significant differences between organic and conventional communities were observed at four of six time points (P < 0.05). Despite the identification of significantly diverse microfloras associated with organic and conventional treatments, no detectable differences in the presence of potential enteric pathogens could be associated with either organic or conventional management. Neither of the bacterial genera most commonly associated with produce-related illness outbreaks (Salmonella and Escherichia) was observed in any of the libraries. The impressive bacterial diversity that was documented in this study provides a valuable contribution to our developing understanding of the total microbial ecology associated with the preharvest phyllospheres of food crops. The fact that organic and conventional phyllosphere bacterial communities were significantly different at numerous time points suggests that crop management methods may influence the bacterial consortia associated with the surfaces of fruits and vegetables.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2102 Plant Sciences, #036, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA. 2: Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Biomolecular Sciences, #296, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA 3: Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2102 Plant Sciences, #036, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA 4: Wye Research and Education Center, P.O. Box 169, Queenstown, Maryland 21658-0169, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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