Endophytic Burkholderia sp. SSG as a potential biofertilizer promoting boxwood growth
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Background. Burkholderia sp. SSG is a bacterial endophyte isolated from boxwood leaves showing a resistant response to infection by the boxwood blight pathogen Calonectria pseudonaviculata. SSG acted as a protective and curative biocontrol agent for boxwood blight and as a bio-sanitizer of disease inoculum in the field. Many gene clusters involved in antibiotic production and plant growth promotion (PGP) were found in the genome, giving this endophyte great application potential as a treatment for plant protection. However, the PGP features have not been documented. This study investigated the plant growth promotion activity of SSG in boxwood. Methods. To determine whether SSG is a plant growth promoting bacterium, four PGP traits, auxin and siderophore production, nitrogen fixation and phosphate solubilization, were examined in the laboratory with colorimetric or agar plate assays. The plant growth promoting activity of SSG was tested on three boxwood varieties characterized by slow, intermediate and fast growth rates, namely Justin Brouwers, Buddy and Winter Gem, respectively. These plants were drenched with an SSG cell suspension or water and washed plant weight was compared before and after treatment to determine growth changes after 10 months. Results. The SSG culture was sustainable on nitrogen free media, suggesting that SSG may fix atmospheric nitrogen. It was also a strong phosphate solubilizer and a potent siderophore and indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) producer. Significant growth promotion was observed on boxwood cultivars Justin Brouwers, Buddy and Winter Gem 10 months after plant roots were drenched with SSG cells. The growth rate of treated plants was 76.1, 58.3, and 37.3% higher than that of the control, respectively. The degree of growth promotion was significantly different among plant varieties, notably more pronounced with the slow and intermediate growers. This study demonstrates that the SSG bacterium has multiple PGP traits and is a prospective plant biofertilizer.