, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 175-180

Influence of a plant growth-promoting pseudomonad and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus on alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil growth and nodulation

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In a growth chamber study we examined the influence of a plant growth-promoting rhizobacterium, Pseudomonas putida R-20, and an acid-tolerant vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) fungus, Glomus intraradices 25, on Medicago sativa L. and Lotus corniculatus L. growth and nodule development. Seedlings were planted in an acidic (pH 5.5), P-deficient soil containing re-established native microflora (minus VAM) and appropriate rhizobia, and inoculated with the rhizobacterium, the VAM fungus, or both. The plants were assayed at three intervals for up to 10–11 weeks. The growth-promoting rhizobacteria alone increased alfalfa shoot mass by 23% compared to all other treatments, but only at 8 weeks of growth, apparently by promoting nodulation and N2 fixation (acetylene reduction activity). The presence of VAM, either alone or in combination with the rhizobacteria, generally decreased root length but only at 8 weeks also. As a group, the inoculation treatments increased all nodular measurements by 10 weeks of growth. Few treatment effects were found at 7 and 9 weeks for birdsfoot trefoil; neither plant nor nodular measurements differed among treatments. By 11 weeks, shoot mass was increased by the rhizobacteria alone by 36% compared to the control. As a group, the inoculation treatments all showed increased nodular responses by this time. The rhizobacteria stimulated mycorrhizal development on both plant species, but only at the initial samplings. No synergistic effects between the plant growth-promoting rhizobacterium and VAM inoculation were found. Although these results lend credence to the concept of managing microorganisms in the rhizosphere to improve plant growth, they emphasize the necessity for a more thorough understanding of microbial interactions as plants mature.