Endophytic bacterial communities of field-grown potato plants and their plant-growth-promoting and antagonistic abilities

Angela Sessitsch, Birgit Reiter, Gabriele Berg
Canadian Journal of Microbiology 2004, 50 (4): 239-49
To study the effect of plant growth on potato-associated bacteria, the composition and properties of bacteria colonizing the endosphere of field-grown potato were analyzed by a multiphasic approach. The occurrence and diversity of potato-associated bacteria were monitored by a cultivation-independent approach, using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of 16S rDNA. The patterns obtained revealed a high heterogeneity of community composition and suggested the existence of plant-specific communities. However, endophytic populations correlated to a certain extent with plant growth performance. Endophytes were also isolated from plants that grew well or grew poorly and were identified by partial sequencing of the 16S rRNA genes. A broad phylogenetic spectrum was found among isolates and differently growing plants hosted different bacterial populations. In an approach to investigate the plant-growth-promoting potential of potato-associated bacteria, a total of 35 bacteria were screened by dual testing for in vitro antagonism towards (i) the fungal pathogens Verticillium dahliae, Rhizoctonia solani, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and Phytophthora cactorum and (ii) the bacterial pathogens Erwinia carotovora, Streptomyces scabies, and Xanthomonas campestris. The proportion of isolates with antagonistic activity was highest against Streptomyces sp. (43%) followed by those against Xanthomonas sp. (29%). As all plants showed more or less severe disease symptoms of scab disease caused by Streptomyces scabies, we assume that the presence of the pathogen induced the colonization of antagonists. The antifungal activity of the isolates was generally low. The biotechnological potential of endophytic isolates assessed by their antagonistic activity and by in vitro production of enzymes, antibiotics, siderophores, and the plant growth hormone indole-1,3-acetic acid was generally high. Overall, seven endophytes were found to antagonize fungal as well as bacterial pathogens and showed a high production of active compounds and were therefore considered promising biological control agents.

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