A novel method for sampling bacteria on plant root and soil surfaces at the microhabitat scale

PG Dennis, Alexander Miller, IM Clark, RG Taylor, Eugenia Valsami-Jones, PR Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


This study reports the first method for sampling bacteria at a spatial scale approximating a microhabitat. At the core of this method is the use of tungsten rods with laser-cut tips of known surface area (0.013 mm(2)). Exposed plant root or soil surfaces were viewed with a dissecting microscope and micro-sampling rods were guided to sample sites using a micro-manipulator. Bacteria that adhered to the sampling tips were then recovered for microbiological analyses. The efficiency of this method for removing bacteria from root surfaces was similar to that with which bacteria are recovered from dissected root segments using the conventional technique of washing. However, as the surface area of the micro-sampling tips was known, the new method has the advantage of eliminating inaccuracy in estimates of bacterial densities due to inaccurate estimation of the root or soil surface sampled. When used to investigate spatial distributions of rhizoplane bacteria, the new technique revealed trends that were consistent with those reported with existing methods, while providing access to additional information about community structure at a much smaller spatial scale. The spatial scale of this new method is ca. 1000-times smaller than other sampling methods involving swabbing. This novel technique represents an important methodological step facilitating microbial ecological investigations at a microhabitat scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008


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