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Catch the Best: Novel Screening Strategy to Select Stress Protecting Agents for Crop Plants

Author(s): Christin Zachow | Henry Müller | Ralf Tilcher | Christina Donat | Gabriele Berg

Journal: Agronomy (Basel)
ISSN 2073-4395

Volume: 3;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 794;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: bait plants | biological control agents (BCAs) | stress protecting agents (SPAs) | screening | abiotic stress

Climate change increases stress levels for crops and affects the economic and environmental aspects of agricultural management systems. The application of stress tolerance-mediating microorganisms is an auspicious strategy for improving crop protection, and as such, we developed a direct selection strategy to obtain cultivable microorganisms from promising bioresources using the bait plants, maize, oilseed rape, sorghum and sugar beet. Alpine mosses, lichens and primrose were selected as bioresources, as each is adapted to adverse environmental conditions. A 10% crop-specific selection was found for bait plant rhizosphere communities using cultivation-independent fingerprints, and their potential role as stress protecting agents (SPA) was evaluated following the cultivation of captured bacteria. In addition to assays identifying phytopathogen antagonism and plant growth promotion capacities, our evaluation included those that test the ability to allocate nutrients. Moreover, we developed new assays to measure tolerance in diverse stress conditions. A score scheme was applied to select SPAs with desired properties, and three Pseudomonas species with pronounced antagonistic activity that showed elevated tolerance to desiccation and an improved seed germination rate were subsequently chosen. Screening for environmentally-conditioned and host-adapted microorganisms provides a novel tool for target-oriented exploitation of microbial bioresources for the management of ecofriendly crops facing biotic and abiotic stresses.
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