Skip to main content

Salt-Tolerant Halophyte Rhizosphere Bacteria Stimulate Growth of Alfalfa in Salty Soil


Halophytes are plants that are adapted to grow in saline soils, and have been widely studied for their physiological and molecular characteristics, but little is known about their associated microbiomes. Bacteria were isolated from the rhizosphere and as root endophytes of Salicornia rubra, Sarcocornia utahensis, and Allenrolfea occidentalis, three native Utah halophytes. A total of 41 independent isolates were identified by 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis. Isolates were tested for maximum salt tolerance, and some were able to grow in the presence of up to 4 M NaCl. Pigmentation, Gram stain characteristics, optimal temperature for growth, and biofilm formation of each isolate aided in species identification. Some variation in the bacterial population was observed in samples collected at different times of the year, while most of the genera were present regardless of the sampling time. Halomonas, Bacillus, and Kushneria species were consistently isolated both from the soil and as endophytes from roots of all three plant species at all collection times. Non-culturable bacterial species were analyzed by Illumina DNA sequencing. The most commonly identified bacteria were from several phyla commonly found in soil or extreme environments: Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Chloroflexi, and Gamma- and Delta-Proteobacteria. Isolates were tested for the ability to stimulate growth of alfalfa under saline conditions. This screening led to the identification of one Halomonas and one Bacillus isolate that, when used to inoculate young alfalfa seedlings, stimulate plant growth in the presence of 1% NaCl, a level that significantly inhibits growth of uninoculated plants. The same bacteria used in the inoculation were recovered from surface sterilized alfalfa roots, indicating the ability of the inoculum to become established as an endophyte. The results with these isolates have exciting promise for enhancing the growth of inoculated alfalfa in salty soil.

Frontiers in Microbiology 10(2019):1-11

Document author: Jennifer Kearl, Caitlyn McNary, J. Scott Lowman, Chuansheng Mei, Zachary T. Aanderud, Steven T. Smith, Jason West, Emily Colton, Michelle Hamson and Brent L. Nielsen
IISBN/ISSN: 1664-302X
View link