Dr Pauline Mele (Agriculture Victoria) and Masters student, Michelle Quach (Melbourne University), discuss impacts of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) on soil microbial communities to improve tomato production.

Soil microbial communities mediate many processes that impact on plant production systems such as disease expression, plant nutrient availability, pesticide decomposition, soil structure and water quality.

This project examines changes in the microbial communities in soils where subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is used to achieve higher water use efficiency in field grown tomatoes. Previous studies have highlighted significant changes in several key soil physico-chemical properties under SDI at measured distances from the emitter, resulting in the conclusion that such changes are likely to lead to major changes in the microbial communities at similar distances from the emitter, which in turn may impact on the vigour of tomato roots growing in the vicinity. This project tests this hypothesis and consider the implications of these changes for tomato vine vigour after successive plantings.