BACKGROUND: Due to climate change and reduced use of fertilizers combined stress scenarios are becoming increasingly frequent in crop production. In a field experiment we tested the effect of combined water and phosphorus limitation on the growth performance and plant traits of eight tetraploid and two diploid potato varieties as well as on root-associated microbiome diversity and functional potential. Microbiome and metagenome analysis targeted the diversity and potential functions of prokaryotes, fungi, plasmids, and bacteriophages and was linked to plant traits like tuber yield or timing of canopy closure.
RESULTS: The different potato genotypes responded differently to the combined stress and hosted distinct microbiota in the rhizosphere and the root endosphere. Proximity to the root, stress and potato genotype had significant effects on bacteria, whereas fungi were only mildly affected. To address the involvement of microbial functions, we investigated well and poorly performing potato genotypes (Stirling and Desirée, respectively) under stress conditions and executed a metagenome analysis of rhizosphere microbiomes subjected to stress and no stress conditions. Functions like ROS detoxification, aromatic amino acid and terpene metabolism were enriched and in synchrony with the metabolism of stressed plants. In Desirée, Pseudonocardiales had the genetic potential to take up assimilates produced in the fast-growing canopy and to reduce plant stress-sensing by degrading ethylene, but overall yield losses were high. In Stirling, Xanthomonadales had the genetic potential to reduce oxidative stress and to produce biofilms, potentially around roots. Biofilm formation could be involved in drought resilience and nutrient accessibility of Stirling and explain the recorded low yield losses. In the rhizosphere exposed to combined stress, the relative abundance of plasmids was reduced, and the diversity of phages was enriched. Moreover, mobile elements like plasmids and phages were affected by combined stresses in a genotype-specific manner.
CONCLUSION: Our study gives new insights into the interconnectedness of root-associated microbiota and plant stress responses in the field. Functional genes in the metagenome, phylogenetic composition and mobile elements play a role in potato stress adaption. In a poor and a well performing potato genotype grown under stress conditions, distinct functional genes pinpoint to a distinct stress sensing, water availability and compounds in the rhizospheres.
- Exploration of Biological Resources