Boxwood phyllosphere fungal and bacterial communities and their differential responses to film-forming anti-desiccants


Background Anti-desiccant is a class of agrochemicals widely used to protect plants from water stresses, rapid temperature variations, heat and sunburn, frost and freeze damages, transplant shock, and pathogen and pest attack. Although anti-desiccants are generally considered non-toxic to organisms, it is unclear whether they may impact the phyllosphere microbial communities. In this study, three film-forming anti-desiccant products, TransFilm, Vapor Gard, and Wilt-Pruf were applied to the canopy of two boxwood cultivars ‘Vardar Valley’ and ‘Justin Brouwers’ on April 13 and August 26, 2021. Shoot samples were collected from boxwood plants treated with each of the three products, as well as nontreated control on June 16, August 26 (before the second treatment), and October 18. Microbial and plant genomic DNA was isolated together and 16S rRNA gene and the extended internal transcribed spacer regions were amplified with PCR and sequenced on a Nanopore MinION platform for bacterial and fungal identification.

            Bacterial communities were more diverse than fungal communities. At the phylum level, the boxwood phyllosphere was dominated by Proteobacteria and Ascomycota; at the genus level, Methylobacterium and Shiraia were the most abundant bacteria and fungi, respectively. Among the three film-forming anti-desiccants, Vapor Gard and Wilt-Pruf had more impact than TransFilm on the microbial communities. Specifically, broader impacts were observed on fungal than bacterial community composition and structure, with most affected fungi being suppressed while bacteria promoted.

            This study addressed several major knowledge gaps regarding boxwood phyllosphere microbiota and the impact of anti-desiccants on plant microbiome. We identified diverse microbial communities of boxwood, a major evergreen woody crop and an iconic landscape plant. We also found differential effects of three film-forming anti-desiccants on the composition and structure of bacterial and fungal communities. These findings advanced our understanding of the associated microbiome of this landmark plant, enabling growers to fully utilize the potentials of microbiome and three anti-desiccants in improving boxwood health and productivity.
BMC Microbiology. 2023 Aug 12;23(1):219