Catechin is a highly studied but controversial allelochemical reported as a component of the root exudates of Centaurea maculosa. Initial reports of high and consistent exudation rates and soil concentrations have been shown to be highly inaccurate, but the chemical has been found in root exudates at and much less frequently in soil but sporadically at high concentrations. Part of the problem of detection and measuring phytotoxicity in natural soils may be due to the confounding effect of soil microbes, and little is known about interactions between catechin and soil microbes. Here we tested the effect of catechin on soil microbial communities and the feedback of these effects to two plant species. We found that catechin inhibits microbial activity in the soil we tested, and by doing so appears to promote plant growth in the microbe-free environment. This is in striking contrast to other in vitro studies, emphasizing the highly conditional effects of the chemical and suggesting that the phytotoxic effects of catechin may be exerted through the microbes in some soils.
- Soil microbial communities