Phyllopshere Bacterial Community Structure of Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) as Affected by Cultivar and Environmental Conditions at Time of Harvest
Modern molecular ecology techniques were used to demonstrate the effects of plant genotype and environmental conditions prior to harvest on the spinach epiphytic bacterial community. Three cultivars of spinach with different leaf topographies were collected at three different periods during the fall growing season. Leaf surface topography had an effect on diversity and number of culturable bacteria on the phylloepiphtyic community of spinach. Savoy cultivars, which had larger surface area and more stomata and glandular trichomes, where bacterial aggregates were observed, featured more diverse communities with increased richness and larger bacterial populations compared to flat-leaved cultivars. Bacterial community richness was compared using denaturant gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), while abundance was quantified using 16s rRNA primers for major phyla. The most diverse communities, both in richness and abundance, were observed during the first sampling period, immediately following a period of rapid spinach growth. Exposure to lower air and soil temperatures and decreased precipitation resulted in significantly reduced bacterial population size and bacterial community richness in November and December. This study describes the effect of the plant characteristics and environmental conditions that affect spinach microbiota population size and diversity, which might have implications in the survival of food and plant bacterial pathogens.