B. thuringiensis is a Poor Colonist of Leaf Surfaces
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The ability of several Bacillus thuringiensis strains to colonize plant surfaces was assessed and compared with that of more common epiphytic bacteria. While all B. thuringiensis strains multiplied to some extent after inoculation on bean plants, their maximum epiphytic population sizes of 106 cfu/g of leaf were always much less than that achieved by other resident epiphytic bacteria or an epiphytically fit Pseudomonas fluorescens strain, which attained population sizes of about 107 cfu/g of leaf. However B. thuringiensis strains exhibited much less decline in culturable populations upon imposition of desiccation stress than did other resident bacteria or an inoculated P. fluorescens strain, and most cells were in a spore form soon after inoculation onto plants. B. thuringiensis strains produced commercially for insect control were not less epiphytically fit than strains recently isolated from leaf surfaces. The growth of B. thuringiensis was not affected by the presence of Pseudomonas syringae when co-inoculated, and vice versa. B. thuringiensis strains harboring a green fluorescent protein marker gene did not form large cell aggregates, were not associated with other epiphytic bacteria, and were not found associated with leaf structures, such as stomata, trichomes, or veins when directly observed on bean leaves by epifluorescent microscopy. Thus, B. thuringiensis appears unable to grow extensively on leaves and its common isolation from plants may reflect immigration from more abundant reservoirs elsewhere.