This study aimed to characterize, validate, and evaluate the plant growth potential of bacterial isolates (E-2, T-2, and T-1) to determine their suitability for application as biofertilizers and/or plant-biostimulants. The plant growth-promoting potential of bacteria (E-2, T-2, and T-1) has been validated in a hydroponic study on paddy plants by inoculating bacterial isolates and monitoring the phenotypic and plant growth responses. The applicability of bacteria was tested based on their tolerance to salinity, susceptibility to antibiotics, and identification based on 16S rDNA sequencing. The isolates E-2, T-2, and T-1 improved plant growth variably and significantly (P < 0.05 at 95% confidence interval) when inoculated into the plant growth matrix, ensuring nutrient availability to the plants grown under a nutrient (nitrate or phosphate) deprived growth matrix. Isolates E-2, T-2, and T-1 grew at salt (NaCl) concentrations of 7%, 6%, and 6%, respectively, and were tolerant to saline conditions. Although these three isolates exhibited resistance to certain antibiotics, they were susceptible to a large number of readily available antibiotics. Isolates E-2, T-2, and T-1 were identified as Klebsiella sp. strain BAB-6433, Citrobacter freundii strain R2A5, and Citrobacter sp. DY1981 respectively, and all of these may be assigned to Risk-Group-2 and hence are safe in view of their susceptibility to readily available antibiotics. Hence, these isolates are promising for extensive evaluation as bioinoculants to ecologically improve soil quality, fertility, crop growth, and yield.
PGPR, Hydroponic study, Root length, Salinity, Shoot length, Plant-biostimulant, Citrobacter, Klebsiella
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