Shifts in the rhizobiome during consecutive in planta enrichment for phosphate-solubilizing bacteria differentially affect maize P status


Phosphorus (P) is despite its omnipresence in soils often unavailable for plants. Rhizobacteria able to solubilize P are therefore crucial to avoid P deficiency. Selection for phosphate-solubilizing bacteria (PSB) is frequently done in vitro; however, rhizosphere competence is herein overlooked. Therefore, we developed an in planta enrichment concept enabling simultaneous microbial selection for P-solubilization and rhizosphere competence. We used an ecologically relevant combination of iron- and aluminium phosphate to select for PSB in maize (Zea mays L.). In each consecutive enrichment, plant roots were inoculated with rhizobacterial suspensions from plants that had grown in substrate with insoluble P. To assess the plants’ P statuses, non-destructive multispectral imaging was used for quantifying anthocyanins, a proxy for maize’s P status. After the third consecutive enrichment, plants supplied with insoluble P and inoculated with rhizobacterial suspensions showed a P status similar to plants supplied with soluble P. A parallel metabarcoding approach uncovered that the improved P status in the third enrichment coincided with a shift in the rhizobiome towards bacteria with plant growth-promoting and P-solubilizing capacities. Finally, further consecutive enrichment led to a functional relapse hallmarked by plants with a low P status and a second shift in the rhizobiome at the level of Azospirillaceae and Rhizobiaceae.

Microbial biotechnology