Host-plant selectivity of rhizobacteria in a crop/weed model system.
Belowground microorganisms are known to influence plants' performance by altering the soil environment. Plant pathogens such as cyanide-producing strains of the rhizobacterium Pseudomonas may show strong host-plant selectivity. We analyzed interactions between different host plants and Pseudomonas strains and tested if these can be linked to the cyanide sensitivity of host plants, the cyanide production of bacterial strains or the plant identity from which strains had been isolated. Eight strains (four cyanide producing) were isolated from roots of four weed species and then re-inoculated on the four weed and two additional crop species. Bacterial strain composition varied strongly among the four weed species. Although all six plant species showed different reductions in root growth when cyanide was artificially applied to seedlings, they were generally not negatively affected by inoculation with cyanide-producing bacterial strains. We found a highly significant plant species x bacterial strain interaction. Partitioning this interaction into contrasts showed that it was entirely due to a strongly negative effect of a bacterial strain (Pseudomonas kilonensis/brassicacearum, isolated from Galium mollugo) on Echinochloa crus-galli. This exotic weed may not have become adapted to the bacterial strain isolated from a native weed. Our findings suggest that host-specific rhizobacteria hold some promise as biological weed-control agents.