Factors affecting microbial flora of the Rhizosphere / Rhizosphere Effect

Factors affecting microbial flora of the Rhizosphere / Rhizosphere Effect

The most important factors which affect / influence the microbial flora of the rhizosphere or rhizosphere effect are: soil type & its moisture, soil amendments, soil PH, proximity of root with soil, plant species, and age of plant and root exudates.

A. Soil type and its moisture: In general, microbial activity and population is high in the rhizosphere region of the plants grown in sandy soils and least in the high humus soils, and rhizosphere organisms are more when the soil moisture is low. Thus, the rhizosphere effect is more in the sandy soils with low moisture content.

B. Soil amendments and fertilizers: Crop residues, animal manure and chemical fertilizers applied to the soil cause no appreciable effect on the quantitative or qualitative differences in the microflora of rhizosphere. In general, the character of vegetation is more important than the fertility level of the soil.

C. Soil PH/ Rhizosphere PH: Respiration by the rhizosphere microflora may lead to the change in soil rhizosphere PH. If the activity and population of the rhizosphere microflora is more, then the PH of rhizosphere region is lower than that of surrounding soil or non-rhizosphere soil. Rhizosphere effect for bacteria and protozoa is more in slightly alkaline soil and for that of fungi is more in acidic soils.

D. Proximity of root with Soil: Soil samples taken progressively closer to the root system have increasingly greater population of bacteria, and actinomycetes and decreases with the distance and depth from the root system. Rhizosphere effect decline sharply with increasing distance between plant root and soil.

E. Plant Species: Different plant species inhabit often some what variable microflora in the rhizosphere region. The qualitative and quantitative differences are attributed to variations in the rooting habits, tissue composition and excretion products. In general, legumes show / produce a more pronounced rhizosphere effect than grasses or cereals. Biennials, due to their long growth period exert more prolonged stimulation on rhizosphere effect than annuals.

F. Age of Plant: The age of plant also alter the rhizosphere microflora and the stage of plant maturity controls the magnitude of rhizosphere effect and degree of response to specific microorganisms. The rhizosphere microflora increases in number with the age of the plant and reaching at peak during flowering which is the most active period of plant growth and metabolism. Hence, the rhizosphere effect was found to be more at the time of flowering than in the seedling or full maturity stage of the plants. The fungal flora (especially, Cellulolytic and Amylolytic) of the rhizosphere usually increases even after fruiting and the onset of senescence due to accumulation of moribund tissue and sloughed off root parts / tissues: whereas, bacterial flora of the rhizosphere decreases after the flowering period and fruit setting.
G. Root / exudates /excretion: One of the most important factors responsible for rhizosphere effect is the availability of a great variety of organic substances at the root region by way of root exudates/excretions. The quantitative and qualitative differences in the microflora of the rhizosphere from that of general soil are mainly due to influences of root exudates. The spectrum of chemical composition root exudates varies widely, and hence their influence on the microflora also varies widely.

Root exudates are composed of the chemical substances like:

Sr. No

Root Executes

Chemical Substances


Amino Acids

All naturally occurring amino acids.


Organic acids

Acetic, butyric, citric, fumaric, lactic, malic, propionic, succinic etc.


Carbohydrates / sugars

Arabinose, fructose, galactose, glucose, maltose, mannose, oligosaccharides, raffinose, ribose, sucrose, xylose etc.


Nucleic acid derivatives

Adenine, cystidine, guanine, undine


Growth factors (phytohormones)

Biotin, choline, inositol, pyridoxine etc



Thiamine, nicotinic acid, biotin etc



Amylase, invertase, protease, phosphatase etc.


Other compounds

Auxins, glutamine, glycosides, hydrocyanic acid peptides, Uv-absorbing compounds, nematode attracting factors, spore germination stimulators, spore inhibitors etc.

The nature and amount of chemical substances thus exuded are dependent on the species of plant, plant age, inorganic nutrients, and temperature, light intercity, O2 / CO2 level, root injury etc. Another source of nutrients for the microorganisms in the rhizosphere region is the sloughed off root epidermis which exert selective stimulation effect on some specific groups of microorganisms. For instance, glucose and amino acids in the exudates readily attract Gram-negative rods which predominantly colonize the roots. Sugars and amino acids in the root exudates stimulate the germination of chlamydospores and other resting spores of fungi; stimulation effect of root exudates on plant pathogenic fungi, nematodes is also well known.

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