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Mediterranean Native Leguminous Plants: A Reservoir Of Endophytic Bacteria With Potential To Enhance Chickpea Growth Under Stress Conditions

Clarisse Brígido, Esther Menéndez, Ana Paço, Bernard R. Glick, Anabela Belo, Maria R. Félix, Solange Oliveira, Mário Carvalho

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Bacterial endophytes, a subset of a plant’s microbiota, can facilitate plant growth by a number of different mechanisms. The aims of this study were to assess the diversity and functionality of endophytic bacterial strains from internal root tissues of native legume species grown in two distinct sites in South of Portugal and to evaluate their ability to promote plant growth. Here, 122 endophytic bacterial isolates were obtained from 12 different native legume species. Most of these bacteria possess at least one of the plant growth-promoting features tested in vitro, with indole acetic acid production being the most common feature among the isolates followed by the production of siderophores and inorganic phosphate solubilization. The results of in planta experiments revealed that co-inoculation of chickpea plants with specific endophytic bacteria along with N2-fixing symbionts significantly improved the total biomass of chickpea plants, in particular when these plants were grown under saline conditions. Altogether, this study revealed that Mediterranean native legume species are a reservoir of plant growth-promoting bacteria, that are also tolerant to salinity and to toxic levels of Mn. Thus, these bacterial endophytes are well adapted to common constraints present in soils of this region which constitutes important factors to consider in the development of bacterial inoculants for stressful conditions in the Mediterranean region.