Plant Bacteria Improves Crop Health

Common plant-associated bacteria, best known to suppress soil-borne root diseases, now have been found to boost corn yields in low-pH soils. The discovery made by Ohio State University plant pathologists is the first-known documentation of a root-colonizing bacterium improving plant health in acidic soil conditions.

"No one in the past has identified such microorganisms as having such a profound effect on protecting the plant under situations caused by low soil pH," says Brian McSpadden Gardener, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and principal investigator of the project. "The discovery could pave the way for more sustainable cropping practices based on microbial inoculants. This includes organic farmers who cannot use chemical seed treatments, as well as those farmers in developing countries who don’t have access to affordable lime to manage soil acidity that often can limit crop yields," he explains.

The study, "Seed Treatment with 2,4-Diacetylphloroglucinol-Producting Pseudomonads Improves Crop Health in Low-pH Soils by Altering Patterns of Nutrient Uptake," was recently published in the journal Phytopathology.

During a study to test the efficacy of DAPG-bacteria for disease control, McSpadden Gardener and his colleagues were surprised to find remarkable differences in plant growth in a portion of the field, which was later found to be more acidic than the rest of the field. Follow-up work showed that the bacterial seed treatment prevented the development of abiotic stress disorder and increased yields of corn plants growing in acidic soils (i.e., with pH levels less than 5.0).

In two consecutive growing seasons, the researchers found that corn plants treated with DAPG-producing bacteria were taking up more essential nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium, while limiting the amount of aluminum and manganese, which can be toxic in high levels.

"In low-pH soils, most crops experience nutrient stress in the form of phosphorus deficiencies and aluminum and/or manganese toxicity. The plants show loss of chlorophyll with specking and streaking of plant leaves," says McSpadden Gardener. "Seed treated with DAPG-producing bacteria relieved that stress and the plants grew normally."

The bacteria used in the experiments represent a widely distributed Pseudomonas fluorescens strain that produces a biofungicidal compound called 2,4-diacetylphloroglucinol (DAPG). This compound is known to help suppress soil-borne diseases and stimulate the plant’s immune system. However, it is not clear whether DAPG or some other products produced by the tested strain are responsible for the newly discovered beneficial effects under acidic soil conditions.

How DAPG-producing bacteria are altering plant uptake is not yet known, but the researchers speculate that either the bacteria are altering the plant’s physiology to allow uptake of needed nutrients while preventing the uptake of more toxic ones, or alkalizing the soil around the plant’s root zone so that the plant is not exposed to low ph-soils around it.

DAPG-producing bacteria, with all of their myriad plant health benefits, are not yet commercially available in the United States. But McSpadden Gardener’s research, as well as studies conducted elsewhere, have indicated that these bacteria can provide viable options for low-cost, natural crop protection. The research was funded, in part, by a USDA National Research Initiative grant and an OARDC Integrated Pest Management program grant.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Plant Bacteria Improves Crop Health

  1. Glad to see information on your site on Integrated Pest Management. I am providing training-of-trainers for crop-pest-disease control in three Afghanistan provinces, naturally promoting environmentally sound practices consistent with the Foreign Assistance Act’s Environmental Procedures, 22CFR216.

Latest News
ManagementSouth Africa Update and the New New Leader G5
February 24, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Dan Jacobs discuss the recent visit to South Africa by sister magazine AgriBusiness Global and the Read More
Fall Creek Watershed
StewardshipUpdate: Nutrient Stewardship In Indiana Requires Cool, …
February 24, 2017
Update: The application deadline for NCRS funding has been extended to March 17, 2017. Green leaves sparkle in the sunlight. Trees Read More
Greenleaf Technologies TADF03-D Dual Fan Nozzle
NozzlesSix Greenleaf Nozzles Approved For XtendiMax With Vapor…
February 22, 2017
Greenleaf Technologies has announced that six of its TurboDrop D Series nozzles have been approved for use with Monsanto’s XtendiMax Read More
Winter Wheat
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Hires Manitoba And Eastern Canada Account Man…
February 22, 2017
Tiger-Sul, a global leader in sulphur fertilizers and crop performance products, has announced that sales veteran Trevor Loewen has joined Read More
NFMS 17 Hagie Sprayer
Eric SfiligojThe Read From Louisville: Uncertain
February 22, 2017
By the time this column appears across the country, the annual Commodity Classic will be in full swing. This means Read More
SprayersApache 1000 Series Sprayer Earns 2017 EquipmentWatch Hi…
February 21, 2017
ET Works has been named a winner in the 2017 EquipmentWatch Highest Retained Value Awards program, the industry’s only award Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
StewardshipMeister Media Among 2017 Award Winners Presented By The…
February 21, 2017
The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA) held its annual conference in San Diego, CA, earlier this month where three awards were Read More
John Reifsteck
CropLife 100GROWMARK’s Reifsteck Earns NCFC Director Of The Y…
February 21, 2017
GROWMARK Chairman of the Board and President John Reifsteck has earned the prestigious Director of the Year Award from the Read More
Roy Blunt
LegislationARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp For Legislative Efforts …
February 17, 2017
Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward. The Agricultural Retailers Read More
LegislationThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate On Confirmatio…
February 17, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationBREAKING: Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Confirmed by S…
February 17, 2017
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various Read More
ManagementFebruary Road Trip Edition
February 17, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent visits to Indiana and Kentucky. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
ManagementHeritage Cooperative, Agland Co-op Approve Merger
February 17, 2017
Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative stockholders have both approved the merger agreement between Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative. Now begins Read More
LegislationARA Fly-In: Ag Retail Descends on Capitol Hill, Lawmake…
February 15, 2017
More than 100 agricultural retailers, distributors and suppliers headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for the Agribusiness Congressional Fly-in, according to a Read More
Untreated soybean seed Heartland Coop
Seed/BiotechMarrone Bio Innovations, Groundwork BioAg Bio-stacked M…
February 13, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd have announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological Read More
NL5000 With G5 Technology
SpreadersNew Leader Introduces NL5000 Dry Nutrient Applicator Wi…
February 13, 2017
New Leader, a division of Highway Equipment Company (HECO), has announced the next generation of spreading technology with the NL5000 Read More
Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Agrees To Credit Agreement Amendme…
February 9, 2017
Pinnacle Operating Corp. has entered into an amendment (the “Amendment”) to its First Lien Credit Agreement that will provide for, Read More