Boosting Plant Growth with Special Soil Bacteria

Jim Crocker
19th March, 2024

Boosting Plant Growth with Special Soil Bacteria

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study at Mohammed V University found two bacteria that help saffron plants grow and resist stress
  • These bacteria have genes for growth hormones, iron transport, and nitrogen fixation
  • The bacteria's genetic diversity suggests they could aid various crops and environments
In the quest to bolster agricultural productivity and sustainability, scientists have been exploring the use of beneficial bacteria that live in close association with plant roots, known as plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). A recent study conducted by researchers at Mohammed V University in Rabat has shed light on the genetic underpinnings that enable two specific strains of PGPR to enhance plant growth and resilience[1]. These strains, Rahnella perminowiae S11P1 and Variovorax sp. S12S4, were originally isolated from the rhizosphere of the saffron plant, Crocus sativus L., and have shown promising results in field trials. The study delved into the genomes of these bacteria to pinpoint the genes responsible for their plant-beneficial traits. The researchers identified a multitude of genes that contribute to the production of auxins (hormones that promote plant growth) and siderophores (molecules that bind and transport iron to plants), nitrogen fixation (the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen to a form plants can use), and other activities like sulfur metabolism and organic acid biosynthesis. These functions are vital for plants to grow healthily and to fend off diseases or cope with environmental stressors. In addition to these growth-promoting features, the bacteria were found to carry genes that help them interact with plant cells, such as those for chemotaxis (movement toward plant roots) and quorum sensing (cell-to-cell communication). This suggests that the bacteria are well-equipped to establish and maintain a beneficial presence in the rhizosphere, the zone of soil surrounding plant roots. The significance of these findings is amplified when considering the challenges of sustainable food security, particularly in developing countries where environmental stressors like drought and salinity can severely impact crop yields[2]. The use of PGPR, as demonstrated by the Rahnella and Variovorax strains, could offer an eco-friendly and cost-effective method to improve soil quality and plant health under both normal and stressed conditions. This aligns with previous research that has shown the benefits of combining PGPR with other soil amendments, such as biochar, to further enhance agricultural productivity[2]. Furthermore, the study's comparative genomic analysis revealed that the two strains have an open pan-genome structure, indicating a high level of genetic diversity and adaptability. This could explain their ability to thrive in various environments and potentially benefit a wide range of crops. The research also builds upon earlier findings from the genus Variovorax, known for its ability to metabolize aromatic compounds, which can be harmful to the environment[3]. The Variovorax strain S12S4, in particular, is equipped with genes for the degradation of these compounds, highlighting its potential role in bioremediation – the use of organisms to clean up environmental contaminants. Additionally, the study echoes previous work with Bacillus sp. strain D5, another PGPR that showed not only growth promotion but also disease suppression in saffron plants[4]. The genome mining approach in the current study provides a more in-depth understanding of the genetic basis for these beneficial traits, paving the way for the development of new bioformulations that could enhance crop production and protection. In conclusion, the research from Mohammed V University in Rabat offers valuable insights into the genetic makeup of two PGPR strains and their potential applications in agriculture. By elucidating the molecular mechanisms behind their beneficial effects, this study supports the use of such bacteria as a sustainable solution to improve crop yields and resilience, which is particularly relevant for food security in the face of global environmental challenges.

BiotechGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Functional analysis and comparative genomics of Rahnella perminowiae S11P1 and Variovorax sp. S12S4, two plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria isolated from Crocus sativus L. (saffron) rhizosphere.

Published 18th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Unlocking the potential of co-applied biochar and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) for sustainable agriculture under stress conditions.

3) Comparative genome analysis among Variovorax species and genome guided aromatic compound degradation analysis emphasizing 4-hydroxybenzoate degradation in Variovorax sp. PAMC26660.

4) Field evaluation of PGP Bacillus sp. strain D5 native to Crocus sativus, in traditional and non traditional areas, and mining of PGP genes from its genome.

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