An endophytic bacterial consortia for plant abiotic salinity stress tolerance

07/08/2019

Summary

This technology is a highly efficient way to select for a competitive consortium of endophytes, aiming to improve the crop growth under saline abiotic stress tolerance.

Technology Description

The proposed technology is a highly efficient way to select for a competitive consortium of endophytes where the beneficial features of the single bacteria will act synergistically to improve the crop growth under saline abiotic stress tolerance. Endophytes are microorganisms that live in the plant endosphere, which is an ecologically protected and stable environment.  This approach is aimed at enriching bacterial plant endophytes, which could re-colonize the root endosphere several times; this allows the enrichment of different cooperative bacterial members of the endophytic microbial community. The use of microbial endophytes as biofertilizers or plant probiotics for a sustainable agricultural system is therefore of growing interest.

Main advantages

Products currently present on the market are commonly constituted by single species inoculum or chemical amended substrates. A consortium of bacteria will represent a more fit and competitive inoculum respect to a single strain inoculum; moreover, endophytes can colonize the internal tissues of the plant inhabiting a more protected ecological niche respect to the open soil environment. Further, endophytes do not elicit an immune response and in some cases display plant growth-promoting (PGP) activities. Moreover, endophytes are commonly generalists, being able to colonize the internal tissues of different hosts, including distantly related plant species. Endophytic microbiota properties are not limited to plant growth-promoting (PGP) features but can also play a role in abiotic stress tolerance including high saline conditions. In conclusion, this environmental-friendly approach allows the growth of crops, a consequent increasing yield of crops, and the reduction of application costs.

Stage of development

The developed technology was designed to validate a methodology for enriching bacterial endophytes which could re-colonize the plant root endosphere several times under saline stress. The isolated bacterial strains could be combined in several consortia of 3-5 strains that could be tested for their efficacy as inoculants for abiotic stress tolerance and microbial product formulation. In previous experiments, the microbiome composition under increasing saline conditions showed that a specific phylum (and two specific genera) increased in abundance through all the enrichment passages. This result confirmed and validated the enrichment methodology since these bacteria have been connected to salinity stress tolerance in different crops and make this idea reaching TRL3 level. Consequently, the testing of these consortia in the open field will advance the methodology up to the TRL6 level since the major critical point of this approach will be the transition from the growth chamber and greenhouse to open field.

Challenge and needs

Soil salinity is an increasing worldwide problem in agriculture that affects plant health and decreases yields of crops like wheat, maize, rice, barley, fruits, and vegetable. Root microbiome studies under different salinity concentrations have shown that it results in a shift of the abundance of microbial members of the community. The increase of salinity in soils is one of the major forms of soil degradation identified in different parts of the world. The origins of this problem are many, mostly due to global climate change and the misuse of water resources and irrigation methodologies. Soil salinity is a global issue threatening land productivity; it is estimated that 50% of all arable land will become impacted by salinity by 2050. The salinity soil increment hinders sustainable development and the achievement of food security. Efforts are needed to increase the sustainable management of saline soils, involving coordinated actions. These include the need to develop technologies in managing saline soils as well as prevention of soil salinization. Microorganisms could play a significant role thanks to their plant growth-promoting (PGP) potential such as tolerance to saline conditions, genetic diversity, synthesis of compatible solutes, production of plant growth promoting hormones, bio-control potential, and their interaction with crop plants.

Intellectual property

The technology is not protected by a patent yet.

Potential markets and targets

The agricultural inoculants market was valued at USD 253.1 million in 2014 and is projected to reach USD 437.1 million by 2020, at a CAGR of 9.6%. In addition, plant growth microorganisms are expected to be the major segment for agricultural inoculants by 2020. The segment held a market share of around 62.3% in 2014. The plant growth promoting microorganisms’ segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR of 10.2%, while the bio-control agents’ segment is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.8% from 2015 to 2020.  

Potential partners

The potential partners are agro-biotech small-medium enterprises (SMEs) involved in the development and commercialization of microbial-based products to improve yields and crop resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses.

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