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Bacteria isolated from the Saudi desert have demonstrated plant-growth-promoting properties that could make them useful as biofertilizers.
"The vast majority of deserts, especially in Saudi Arabia, have never been explored for agricultural potential," says doctoral student, Abdul Aziz Eida, of KAUST's Desert Agriculture Initiative. "Many people think deserts are sterile and inhospitable to any form of life. But there are many plants able to grow and survive in the harsh conditions found there. We believed that one of the key factors enabling plants to survive in such environments is their association with microbes in the soil."
Eida - Part - Team - Darwin21 - Project
Eida is part of a team working on the Darwin21 project led by microbiologist Heribert Hirt. The researchers in this team study desert bacteria for their potential to promote plant growth in stressed soils, such as those facing drought, salinity, extreme temperatures or nutrient deficiency.
The team collected soil samples from sites in two desert regions in Saudi Arabia: Jizan, located on the southern Red Sea coast, and Al Wahbah Crater, part of the extinct Harrat volcanic chain in western Saudi Arabia.
Root - Samples - Types - Plants - Samples
They also took root samples from four types of plants and examined the samples for their bacterial content. They found large numbers and diverse kinds of bacteria in the desert soil, but their number and diversity were smaller in the soil attached to the plants' roots, a zone known as the rhizosphere, and even smaller in the endosphere, within the roots1.
A significant number of the bacteria isolated from the plants' endospheres were shown to have growth-promoting traits. The researchers introduced some of these bacteria, under laboratory conditions, to salt-stressed soil surrounding the roots of Arabidopsis...
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