DOI: 10.7717/peerj.16399 ISSN: 2167-8359

Potential of psychrotolerant rhizobacteria for the growth promotion of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

Muhammad Abdullah, Mohsin Tariq, Syeda Tahseen Zahra, Azka Ahmad, Marriam Zafar, Shad Ali
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Wheat is the second most important staple crop grown and consumed worldwide. Temperature fluctuations especially the cold stress during the winter season reduces wheat growth and grain yield. Psychrotolerant plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) may improve plant stress-tolerance in addition to serve as biofertilizer. The present study aimed to isolate and identify PGPR, with the potential to tolerate cold stress for subsequent use in supporting wheat growth under cold stress. Ten psychrotolerant bacteria were isolated from the wheat rhizosphere at 4 °C and tested for their ability to grow at wide range of temperature ranging from −8 °C to 36 °C and multiple plant beneficial traits. All bacteria were able to grow at 4 °C to 32 °C temperature range and solubilized phosphorus except WR23 at 4 °C, whereas all the bacteria solubilized phosphorus at 28 °C. Seven bacteria produced indole-3-acetic acid at 4 °C, whereas all produced indole-3-acetic acid at 28 °C. Seven bacteria showed the ability to fix nitrogen at 4 °C, while all the bacteria fixed nitrogen at 28 °C. Only one bacterium showed the potential to produce cellulase at 4 °C, whereas four bacteria showed the potential to produce cellulase at 28 °C. Seven bacteria produced pectinase at 4 °C, while one bacterium produced pectinase at 28 °C. Only one bacterium solubilized the zinc at 4 °C, whereas six bacteria solubilized the zinc at 28 °C using ZnO as the primary zinc source. Five bacteria solubilized the zinc at 4 °C, while seven bacteria solubilized the zinc at 28 °C using ZnCO3 as the primary zinc source. All the bacteria produced biofilm at 4 °C and 28 °C. In general, we noticed behavior of higher production of plant growth-promoting substances at 28 °C, except pectinase assay. Overall, in vitro testing confirms that microbes perform their inherent properties efficiently at optimum temperatures rather than the low temperatures due to high metabolic rate. Five potential rhizobacteria were selected based on the in vitro testing and evaluated for plant growth-promoting potential on wheat under controlled conditions. WR22 and WR24 significantly improved wheat growth, specifically increasing plant dry weight by 42% and 58%, respectively. 16S rRNA sequence analysis of WR22 showed 99.78% similarity with Cupriavidus campinensis and WR24 showed 99.9% similarity with Enterobacter ludwigii. This is the first report highlighting the association of C. campinensis and E. ludwigii with wheat rhizosphere. These bacteria can serve as potential candidates for biofertilizer to mitigate the chilling effect and improve wheat production after field-testing.

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