Inoculation of plant growth-promoting bacteria attenuates the negative effects of drought on sorghum

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Microbial inoculants are suitable cost-effective technology to help plants endure drought. For the development of commercial inoculants, screening of efficient plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) is a crucial step. The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of PGPB to modulate drought resistance in Sorghum bicolor. A pot experiment with sorghum was conducted to access the role of previously selected PGPB strains. In addition, two non-inoculated control treatments (with and without urea fertilization) were also evaluated. For comparison, a fully irrigated treatment (FIT) was also assessed. All plants were fully irrigated for 47 days when the water supply was completely suspended for the drought-stressed treatments. When the soil moisture was close to zero, the irrigation was resumed. During dehydration and rehydration process, the leaf gas exchange (LGE) was evaluated. The parameters of plant growth and nitrogen nutrition were assessed 8 days after reirrigation. Comparing to the FIT, all treatments reduced the LGE rates, but in the presence of Bacillus sp. ESA 402 photosynthesis rate was less reduced. Some inoculation treatments promoted better recovery of photosynthesis, comparable to the FIT, 6 days after rehydration. The plant growth and nitrogen nutrition were negatively affected by the drought, but the inoculation of different bacteria reduced some negative effects. The nitrogen accumulation in the shoots was increased by all strains, suggesting their diazotrophic ability even under drought. Overall, the inoculation of Bacillus sp. ESA 402 was the best bacterium with potential for future field trials.

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This study was supported by Brazilian Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq 485168/2013-8), by INCT—Plant Growth-Promoting Microorganisms for Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility (INCT-MPCPAgro 465133/2014-4) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa and This study also was funded by the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) for providing the scholarship for the first, third and fourth authors. The seventh and last authors are research fellows of CNPq.

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Correspondence to Paulo Ivan Fernandes-Júnior.

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Santana, S.R.A., Voltolini, T.V., Antunes, G.R. et al. Inoculation of plant growth-promoting bacteria attenuates the negative effects of drought on sorghum. Arch Microbiol (2020) doi:10.1007/s00203-020-01810-5

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  • Bacillus sp.
  • Inoculants
  • Diazotrophic bacteria
  • Semiarid
  • Water deficit
  • Leaf gas exchanges