Probiotics for Plants? Growth Promotion by the Entomopathogenic Fungus Beauveria bassiana Depends on Nutrient Availability
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Cultivation of crops requires nutrient supplements which are costly and impact the environment. Furthermore, global demands for increased crop production call for sustainable solutions to increase yield and utilize resources such as nutrients more effectively. Some entomopathogenic fungi are able to promote plant growth, but studies over such effects have been conducted under optimal conditions where nutrients are abundantly available. We studied the effects of Beauveria bassiana (strain GHA) seed treatment on the growth of maize (Zea mays) at high and low nutrient conditions during 6 weeks in greenhouse. As expected, B. bassiana seed treatment increased plant growth, but only at high nutrient conditions. In contrast, the seed treatment did not benefit plant growth at low nutrient conditions where the fungus potentially constituted a sink and tended to reduce plant growth. The occurrence of endophytic B. bassiana in experimental plant tissues was evaluated by PCR after 6 weeks, but B. bassiana was not documented in any of the above-ground plant tissues indicating that the fungus-plant interaction was independent of endophytic establishment. Our results suggest that B. bassiana seed treatment could be used as a growth promoter of maize when nutrients are abundantly available, while the fungus does not provide any growth benefits when nutrients are scarce.
KeywordsPlant-microbe interactions Entomopathogenic fungi Symbiosis Endophyte Context dependency
We thank Maya Pedersen for assistance in the greenhouse and Professor Helle Sørensen for statistical advice.
ST was supported by a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship (grant no. 331125), the Foundations’ Postdoc Pool, and Osk. Huttunen Foundation.
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