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
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program To Launch…
October 26, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program will expand the voluntary retailer program to the full state of Ohio, allowing nutrient Read More
AGCO RG700 at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
EquipmentAGCO Parts Rolls Out No-Interest, No-Payments Offer Via…
October 26, 2016
AGCO Corp. is now offering an innovative financing solution on qualifying Parts and Service transactions. Now through December 31, 2016, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsIncotec Invests In North America
October 25, 2016
Leading seed enhancement company Incotec, part of Croda, has announced an investment in their North America business. The total investment of Read More
Patriot 25th anniversary
SprayersCase IH Celebrates 25 Years Of Patriot Sprayers At Bens…
October 24, 2016
Case IH executives, employees and special guests celebrated 25 years of production of Case IH Patriot sprayers in a special Read More
4r Nutrient stewardship
StewardshipNominations For The 4R Advocate Program Due October 31
October 24, 2016
Nominations for the 4R Advocate program are due to The Fertilizer Institute by October 31, 2016. The program recognizes agricultural Read More
Corn close up
Eric SfiligojProtecting Agriculture’s Ability To Feed The World
October 24, 2016
The rate of change coming to agriculture is growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This Read More
Student Young Worker CHS
CropLife 100CHS Supports #FirstJob Compact
October 24, 2016
CHS joins the White House and many of the country’s largest employers in signing a new initiative centered on helping Read More
Kennebec Grain terminal
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Kennebec Facility Loads First Rail Cars
October 21, 2016
In a season of firsts for Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Grain Terminal, the first 115-car unit train was loaded with soybeans Read More
ManagementThe Latest Dow-DuPont Rumor, Product of the Year Voting…
October 20, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares a new rumor about the Dow-DuPont merger and updates on two CropLife-driven programs, the CropLife Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Activ…
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soil Young Corn
Industry NewsAgribusiness Search Firm Appoints New Managing Partner
October 18, 2016
Morris Bixby Group, a leading agribusiness search firm providing the highest quality professional recruiting and career advancement services since 2000, Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
FertilizerUnited Suppliers Acquires Kansas Fertilizer Business
October 17, 2016
United Suppliers, Inc. has purchased the assets of Evans Enterprises, LLC, an ammonium chloride fertilizer business based in Olathe, KS. Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsFMC Launches New Operations In Argentina, Exits Joint V…
October 17, 2016
FMC Corp. has exited its joint venture with Ruralco Soluciones S.A. FMC has launched new commercial operations, FMC Quimica S.A., Read More
Dow AgroSciences
InsecticidesRenewed Registration Issued For Products Containing Sul…
October 17, 2016
On October 14, 2016, the U.S. EPA re-established the registration of products containing sulfoxaflor (Isoclast Active), including Transform WG, Closer Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Whys Of Agriculture
October 17, 2016
During 2016, there have been myriad challenges facing the whole agricultural industry. Such wide ranging issues as water protection, sustainable Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerImproved Phosphorus Management Essential To Feeding Wor…
October 14, 2016
With a global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as Read More
ManagementHarvest and Crop Price Updates; EPA and Crop Protection…
October 13, 2016
Glyphosate and atrazine get public comment support from ARA as each is reviewed by EPA, and the latest on the Read More
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More