Smells from the desert: microbial volatiles that affect plant growth and development of native and non-native plant species.
The plant microbiota can affect host fitness via the emission of microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs) that influence growth and development. However, evidence of these molecules and their effects in plants from arid ecosystems is limited. We screened the mVOCs produced by 40 core and representative members of the microbiome of agaves and cacti in their interaction with Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana benthamiana. We used SPME-GC-MS to characterize the chemical diversity of mVOCs and tested the effects of selected compounds on growth and development of model and host plants. Our study revealed that approximately 90% of the bacterial strains promoted plant growth both in A. thaliana and N. benthamiana. Bacterial VOCs were mainly composed of esters, alcohols, and S-containing compounds with 25% of them not previously characterized. Remarkably, ethyl isovalerate, isoamyl acetate, 3-methyl-1-butanol, benzyl alcohol, 2-phenylethyl alcohol, and 3-(methylthio)-1-propanol, and some of their mixtures, displayed beneficial effects in A. thaliana and also improved growth and development of Agave tequilana and Agave salmiana in just 60 days. Volatiles produced by bacteria isolated from agaves and cacti are promising molecules for the sustainable production of crops in arid and semi-arid regions.