For centuries farmers have taken advantage of the beneficial relationship between some bacteria and plants to boost yield, improve soil fertility, and inhibit crop infections.
Today spirited efforts are ongoing towards sustainable crop production and at its core is the application of biological approaches as part of an integrated crop nutrient management system. In fact, there is a piling body of knowledge on how significant and revolutionary harnessing the power of nitrogen-fixing bacteria would have on agriculture and crop production.
OK, now you know using bacteria in crop production could potentially usher in a second green revolution, but you’d be wondering how these bacteria do it. How do they help them grow?
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That’s the focus of this article to look at the various methods these microbes influence the plant.
Bacteria Encourage Plants Growth
There are several bacteria around the root which through their activities make available nutrients which are typically inaccessible to them. They do this either by breaking down insoluble nutrients or secreting acidic compounds which lower the pH level of the surrounding area.
- Take for instance the role of these bacteria in the phosphorous uptake by plants. Due to its highly reactive nature with Iron, Calcium, and Aluminum, it precipitates and hence becomes inaccessible by the plants. Some of the growth-promoting microbes (PGPB) converts phosphorous into a form that is readily available for the plants.
Another scarce primary nutrient in soil is Iron; the bacteria secrete a compound siderophore which in turn acquires ferric iron which the plant roots readily absorb.
- Manages the ethylene levels – Studies have shown that a reduced level of Ethylene promotes their growth. Some growth-promoting microbes are known to contain ACC deaminase an enzyme which cuts the concentration of ethylene in stressed or developing plant.
- Nitrogen fixation – this is probably one of the well-known benefits of PGPB, and that’s for a good reason. Nitrogen is one nutrient that is hardly accessible to the plants. However, there is some plant growth promoting microbes that can fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil; hence making the nutrients readily available.
PGPB can help in the Suppression of pathogenic attacks
PGPB(plant growth-promoting bacteria) can prevent the infection of pathogens through competing with them for nutrients, secreting anti-fungal compounds, and producing antibiotics to ward off these pathogens from invading the crops. In order to have the energy to ward off these pathogens, plants store their energy while they perform cellular respiration, it’s the chemical process used by cells to unlock energies stored in starch into usable forms. This helps the plant to defend from these pathogens.
Apart from populating and competing with this pathogens PGPB also triggers the plant to develop an induced system resistance which is its defense mechanism kicking in due to the interactions with the growth-promoting microbes.
They are used as Biofertilizer
This is not the same as organic fertilizer. In this case, the live beneficial bacteria are injected into the soil, applied to seeds or on plant surfaces this encourages high yield by increasing the supply of primary nutrients to the host plant. However, not all PGPB are considered a biofertilizer.
In summary, growth promoting microbes play a vital role in the eco-balance of the soil, through their activities farmers have been able to improve crop yield and ward off crop diseases.
And with the current push to adopt this PGPB for more crops, we are on the verge of another green revolution.
The use of PGPB as an integral component of agricultural practice is a technology whose time has come. These bacteria are already being used successfully in a number of countries in the developing world and this practice is expected to grow. In the more developed world, where agricultural chemicals remain relatively inexpensive, the use of PGPB occupies a small but growing niche in the development of organic agriculture. In addition, it is reasonable to expect the increased use of PGPB in various phytoremediation strategies.