Letter | Published:

Ethylene in soil



THE origin of ethylene in the soil atmosphere is of interest because the concentrations at which it sometimes occurs can restrict plant growth by inhibiting root extension in cereals1 and root nodulation in legumes2; it has also been suggested that it aids plants by inhibiting pathogenic fungi3. Our earlier observations showed that ethylene could be produced by a soil fungus, Mucor hiemalis, and two soil yeasts, which have now been identified as Candida vartiovaarai and Trichosporon cutaneum, when glucose and methionine were available to them4. Subsequent investigations in pure culture and in soil have attempted to elucidate mechanisms by which these organisms could synthesise the gas5–7. Other investigators3,8 have proposed that anaerobic spore-forming bacteria rather than fungi are largely responsible for ethylene formation in soil as: (1) heat does not prevent the formation of the gas in soil, (2) anaerobiosis favours its formation and (3) the gas is fungi-static. Further experiments have therefore been undertaken in an attempt to assess if these latter observations cast doubt on our conclusions; the results are reported here.

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