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  • RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT

Cold-adapted bacteria boost plant growth

From soil and water samples of the east Rathong glacier ecosystem in Sikkim, the researchers identified several bacterial genes responsible for tolerating cold stress. Credit: Srijana Mukhia

Researchers have identified specific plant growth-promoting bacteria in a glacier ecosystem in Sikkim Himalaya. The microorganisms have genes that help them cope with cold, radiation and oxidative stresses1.

These properties could be harnessed to make biofertilizers to boost the growth of crops at high altitudes, says scientists at the CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology in Himachal Pradesh.

Cold conditions hinder microbial activity and make commercial biofertilizers inefficient. To overcome this, a team led by Rakshak Kumar focused on bacteria which thrive in the glacier ecosystem of Sikkim.

They detected 52 bacterial isolates in the soil and water of East Rathong glacier ecosystem. Bacteria belonging to genera Pseudomonas and Acinetobacter were the most abundant, followed by Chryseobacterium, Arthrobacter and Janthinobacterium.

The team identified several bacterial genes responsible for tolerating cold stress. The bacterial genomes contained genes that encode glucose dehydrogenase, phosphate-specific transporter and nitrogen-fixing proteins, which promote plant growth.

The bacteria made phosphate – an important macronutrient for plants – soluble. They also produced siderophores, small compounds that help them accumulate iron and fight pathogens, and indole acetic acid, a plant growth hormone.

Inoculum prepared using four different bacteria promoted the growth of wheat seeds in pots, suggesting their efficacy in improving mountain agriculture crops.

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d44151-022-00059-9

References

  1. Mukhia, S. et al. Microbiol. Res. 260, 127049 (2022)

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

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