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Bacteriomes of peaches and cover crops


Replant syndrome (RS) of fruit and nut trees causes reduced tree vigor and crop productivity in orchard systems due to repeated plantings of closely related tree species. Although RS etiology has not been clearly defined, the causal agents are thought to be a complex of soil microorganisms combined with abiotic factors and susceptible tree genetics. Different soil disinfection techniques alleviate RS symptoms by reducing the loads of the deleterious microbiome; however, the positive effect on crop growth is temporary. Here, the current understanding of RS in orchards from a soil microbiome perspective is reviewed. The resolution to RS will require experts to outline explicit descriptions for its symptoms, determine its etiology, identify the primary phytopathogens, and fully explore sustainable treatments which alleviate RS. Two sustainable treatments of RS were selected to explore at a deeper level, soil disinfection and increasing crop diversity to observe what technique could help establish a healthy soil bacteriome. In a greenhouse study, soil disinfection via autoclave was then followed by cover cropping. It was found that soil disinfection increases plant biomass as compared to the control for only the first crop cycle while non-autoclaved soils with a history of cover cropping alleviated RS in RS-susceptible 'Lovell' peach seedlings. Although soil disinfection via autoclave was found to distinctly alter the peach soil bacteriome for the full duration of the study, this sustainable practice mimicking solarization failed to provide relief from RS for peach seedlings. Instead of long-term benefits, differential abundance comparisons displayed a loss of potentially beneficial bacteria due to soil disinfection. Paenibacillus castaneae and Bellilinea caldifistulae were beneficial bacterial species that uniquely colonized peach rhizosphere of non-autoclaved soils with a cover crop history. As a promising sustainable technique, a greater understanding of how inter-/intra-specific competition of cover crops can influence the bulk soil bacteriome was pursued. Alfalfa, brassica, and fescue were grown in 7 different plant combinations (1. alfalfa, 2. brassica, 3. fescue, 4. alfalfa-brassica, 5. alfalfa-fescue, 6. brassica-fescue, 7. alfalfa-brassica-fescue) across 3 density concentrations (low: 1–3 plants, medium: 24 plants, and high: 48 plants) for a greenhouse microcosm experiment. It was found that even in highly competitive conditions beneficial bacteria were enriched, however, there was an apparent trade-off where different plant combinations enriched distinct beneficial bacteria. As an example, even if a free-living nitrogen fixing bacteria such as an Azospirillum spp. was enriched in the bulk soil of alfalfa and brassica monocultures, it was not enriched in the bulk soil of an alfalfa-brassica plant mixture. Instead Pseudarthrobacter phenanthrenivorans, a phytohormone producer, was enriched in alfalfa-brassica plant mixtures. When zooming into the rhizosphere compartment of these microcosms, it was found that regardless of plant neighbor identity or density, a few rhizobacteria were highly correlated with a specific plant species. Meanwhile, certain plant species specific rhizobacteria were enriched only if specific conditions such as plant neighbor identity or density were met. Overall, our research found that growing diverse plant species plants prior to the re-establishment of a peach orchard could alleviate RS symptoms. Furthermore, cover crops can enrich different microbes when grown together as opposed to when grown separately. Lastly, although plants recruit a particular set of bacteria, this recruitment can shift depending on plant neighbor identity or density. Further study of cover crops may identify how they can alleviate RS in orchards worldwide.


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