Impact of Phyllosphere Methylobacterium on Host Rice Landraces
|Title||Impact of Phyllosphere Methylobacterium on Host Rice Landraces|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2022|
|Authors||Sanjenbam P, Shivaprasad P.V, Agashe D|
Plants are associated with diverse microbes in nature. Do the microbes increase host plant health, and can they be used for agricultural applications? This is an important question that must be answered in the field rather than in the laboratory or greenhouse.
The genus Methylobacterium includes widespread plant-associated bacteria that are abundant in the plant phyllosphere (leaf surfaces), consume plant-secreted methanol, and can produce plant growth-promoting metabolites. However, despite the potential to increase agricultural productivity, their impact on host fitness in the natural environment is relatively poorly understood. Here, we conducted field experiments with three traditionally cultivated rice landraces from northeastern India. We inoculated seedlings with native versus nonnative phyllosphere Methylobacterium strains and found significant impacts on plant growth and grain yield. However, these effects were variable. Whereas some Methylobacterium isolates were beneficial for their host, others had no impact or were no more beneficial than the bacterial growth medium on its own. Host plant benefits were not consistently associated with Methylobacterium colonization and did not have altered phyllosphere microbiome composition, changes in the early expression of plant stress response pathways, or bacterial auxin production. We provide the first demonstration of the benefits of phyllosphere Methylobacterium for rice yield under field conditions and highlight the need for further analysis to understand the mechanisms underlying these benefits. Given that the host landrace-Methylobacterium relationship was not generalizable, future agricultural applications will require careful testing to identify coevolved host-bacterium pairs that may enhance the productivity of high-value rice varieties. IMPORTANCE Plants are associated with diverse microbes in nature. Do the microbes increase host plant health, and can they be used for agricultural applications? This is an important question that must be answered in the field rather than in the laboratory or greenhouse. We tested the effects of native, leaf-inhabiting bacteria (genus Methylobacterium) on traditionally cultivated rice varieties in a crop field. We found that inoculation with some bacteria increased rice grain production substantially while a nonnative bacterium reduced plant health. Overall, the effect of bacterial inoculation varied across pairs of rice varieties and their native bacteria. Thus, knowledge of evolved associations between specific bacteria hosted by specific rice varieties is necessary to develop ways to increase the yield of traditional rice landraces and preserve these important sources of cultural and genetic diversity.