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Soil bacteria of the genus Streptomyces living in the soil surrounding plant roots can produce antibiotics that inhibit growth of other soil bacteria and fungi. These antibiotics may provide an economical, pesticide-free method of plant disease control in agricultural soils, so understanding what conditions create microbial communities with high levels of antibiotic production is important for sustainable agriculture.

In order to effectively test how plants affect Streptomyces antibiotic production, a pilot study is necessary to determine methods and timing for collecting Streptomyces from plant root zone soil. This work will inform methodology for a short-term greenhouse experiment in summer 2023 to measure effects of nitrogen fertilizer and pH on Streptomyces abundance and antibiotic production in the plant root zone.

Oat (Avena sativa) seedlings will be grown in pots of local field soil. We will test different mixtures of field soil with perlite, vermiculite, and/or sand. We will collect soil clinging to plant roots and non-root zone soil at several time points between 5 and 10 weeks after oat planting. Streptomyces will be isolated from soil samples, and their abundance and antibiotic production will be measured. The stage of plant growth at which the difference in Streptomyces abundance and antibiotic production is highest between root zone and non-root zone soil will serve as the time of harvest for a summer 2023 experiment.

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Streptomyces; Antibiotics

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Methodology for Quantifying Antibiotic Production of Streptomyces Bacteria in Soil around Oat Plant Roots