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Chemosphere
Volume 294, 2022, 133718

Co-inoculation of halotolerant potassium solubilizing Bacillus licheniformis and Aspergillus violaceofuscus improves tomato growth and potassium uptake in different soil types under salinity

Raji Muthuraja, Thangavelu Muthukumar

Root and Soil Biology Laboratory, Department of Botany, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, 641046, Tamil Nadu, India.

Abstract

Soil salinity is an important stress that negatively affects crop growth and productivity, causing extensive agricultural losses, worldwide. Potassium (K) solubilizing microorganisms (KSMs) can impart abiotic stress tolerance in plants in addition to nutrient solubilization. In this study, the salinity tolerance of KSMs Bacillus licheniformis and Aspergillus violaceofuscus originating from saxicolous habitats was examined using different concentrations of NaCl (0, 25, 50, 75, 100, and 125 mM) under in vitro conditions. The results indicated that both KSMs were capable of tolerating salinity. As B. licheniformis had a maximum growth in 100 mM NaCl at 37 °C, A. violaceofuscus had the maximum biomass and catalase (CAT) activity at 75 mM NaCl. However, maximum proline content was detected at 100 mM NaCl in both KSMs. Further, the ability of these KSMs to promote tomato growth individually and in combination with the presence or absence of mica was also examined in unsterilized or sterilized Alfisol and Vertisol soils under induced salinity in greenhouse conditions. The results of the greenhouse study revealed that inoculation of KSMs along with/without mica amendment significantly improved the morphological and physiological characteristics of tomato plants under salinity. Plant height, leaf area, biomass, relative water content, proline content, and CAT activity of dual inoculated plants were significantly higher than non-inoculated plants. Significant correlations existed between various soil, plant growth, soil pH and available K. From the results, it could be concluded that B. licheniformis and A. violaceofuscus are potential candidates for improving crop production in saline-stressed soils.

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