Parul Sharma*, Pankaj Prakash Verma and Mohinder Kaur

Department of Basic Sciences (Microbiology section), Dr. Y.S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, Solan-173230, Himachal Pradesh, India.


Fluorescent Pseudomonas species have a number of traits like antifungal, siderophores, phosphatesolubilization, lytic enzymes, HCN, ammonia and plant growth regulators that allow them to act as plant growth promoting and biocontrol agents. They competitively colonize plant roots, play important role in enhancing the growth of plants and in plant disease control. These may be used for soil improvement and to increase soil fertility hence for management of replant problem of apple in Himachal Pradesh. To ensure the sustained availability of PGP and biocontrol agent’s in soil formulation development protocol has to be standardized.On the basis of different PGPR activities three indigenous strainsviz.,Pseudomonas aeruginosaC, Pseudomonas fluorescensM and Pseudomonas putidaL were selected for field studies. In all the treatments with individual (L, M and C) and consortia strains (L+M, L+C, M+C, L+M+C) there was an 8.0 to 86.5 per cent increase in plant height as compared to control. The performance of replanted apple was much better in terms of root colonization capacity, plant establishment and increase in plant growth in terms of plant height, number of nodes and branches over their respective control after fifteen months of plantation.

Keywords: Pseudomonassp., bioformulation, Apple, Replant site.


Apple (MalusdomesticaBorkh.) is one of the most important fruit crop grown and consumed all around the world and has been distributed almost across the whole temperate region in the Northern and Southern hemispheres1.

Replant problem refers to the poor growth of replanted young trees on the old sites. It is distributed worldwide and is often encountered in establishing new orchards2. The disease is a complex syndrome that reduces growth, survival and yield of replanted tree. Replant problem is caused by biotic and abiotic factors3. The biotic factors includes the rhizospheremicroflora (bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, nematodes and their interactions) and abiotic factors includes phytotoxins, nutrient imbalance, low or high pH, soil structure and damage, and lack of excess of moisture4.

Fluorescent Pseudomonas species are the most diverse and versatile group of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria. Their potential to synthesize different secondary metabolites with diverse biological activities is the important function of soil fertility and sustainability of crops5. The integration of their important traits like production of antifungal antibiotics, iron chelating siderophores, lytic enzymes, plant growth regulators, phosphate solubilization, ammonia and HCN production with ecological fitness of the strains will be prerequisite for designing useful, efficient and effective novel bioagent. The large scale application of indigenous plant growth promoting fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. may be able to manage replant problem of fruit crops especially apple.

The main objective of this research was to exploit the indigenous potential fluorescent Pseudomonas strains viz., P. aeruginosa, P. fluorescens and P. putidain individual and consortial combination to act as biofertilizer which can become one of the most promising biotechnologies to solve apple replant disease and can also improve production with low inputs in fertilizer. The aim of the study was to select more effective combination of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. which can be used for biofertilizer development for management of apple replant problem.





Isolation of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. from apple rhizosphere


The fluorescent Pseudomonas sp.was isolated from the rhizosphere of apple plants in normal and replant sites of Shimla district (Himachal Pradesh). The rhizosphere soil loosely adhering to apple roots were gently teased out with small root pieces in polythene bags and immediately transported to laboratory under cold conditions (4ºC) for further process. The serial dilution agar plate method was used to isolate Pseudomonas sp. on King’s B medium6. The composition of the medium was(g/l-1): Peptone, 20.0; K2HPO4, 1.5; MgSO4.7H2O,1.5; Glycerol, 15.0 ml. All the twelve isolates from apple rhizosphere were morphologically, physiologically and biochemically characterized so as to select the isolates belonging to P. aeruginosa, P. putida and P. fluorescens group.



Molecular characterization and in-vitro screening of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. for plant growth promoting activities


All the twelve fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. were characterized for plant growth promoting activities viz.,phosphate solubilization7, siderophore production8, HCN production9, ammonia production10and plant growth regulator production11,12,13 according to their respective methods. Three potential fluorescent Pseudomonas isolates L, M and C were selected and molecularly characterized by 16S rRNA technique using Pseudomonas specific primers viz., FP-1 (GGTCTGAGAGGATGATCAGT) and RP-1 (TTAGCTCCACCTCGCGGC) in MJ Mini BIORAD personal thermal cycler-100 (PTC-100)14. The PCR amplification was as follows: denaturation at 94°C for 1 min, annealing at 55°C for 2 min, and elongation at 72°C for 2 min with a total of 35 cycles. For DNA sequencing, eluted amplified DNA products of fluorescent Pseudomonas isolates L, M and Cwas purified followed by sequencing in Bioserve Private limited (Hyderabad, India). After sequencing the obtained sequence were analyzed by Basic local alignment search tool (BLAST) for their identification with the NCBI data base15.On submission of partial sequence of Pseudomonas putidaL, PseudomonasfluorescensM and Pseudomonas aeruginosaC to GenBank database (NCBI) the accession no. assigned was KF751235, KF751236 and KJ871666


Replant sites for field experiment


The field experiment was conducted with apple rootstocks (MM793 and MM111) in ARD (apple replant disease) infected sitesof Shimla distt. (Himachal Pradesh). The two sites at Maggota and Sharontha were selected for conducting field experiment on the bases of age of orchard and symptoms of ARD. A total of eighty apple rootstocks (MM793 and MM111) were purchased from KVK (Rohru) by farmers.


Field application of Pseudomonas putida L, Pseudomonas fluorescensM and Pseudomonas aeruginosaCin replant sites of Maggota and Sharontha (Shimla distt.)


The field experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of individual and consortial fluorescent Pseudomonas strainson the growth and establishment of apple rootstock planted in replant sites of Maggota and Sharontha. The fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. viz., Pseudomonas putida L, Pseudomonas fluorescens M and Pseudomonas aeruginosaC were grown in nutrient broth at 28±2 °C for 48-72 hr (adjusted to inoculum density 1 x 108cfu/ml) and used for the treatment of plant roots andsoil of pits individually and in different combinations viz., L, M, C, L+M, L+C, M+C, L+M+C and control. The consortial combination viz., L+M, L+C, M+C, L+M+C was made in 1:1 and 1:1:1 ratio. The control plants were treated with 1/10 diluted nutrient broth.

Five rootstocks of each treatment were planted in replant site of Maggota and Sharontha after treating roots according to different treatment combination. The plants were treated with fluorescent Pseudomonas suspension by dipping their roots in liquid inoculum for 15-30 minutes before planting them in replant site pits pretreated with Pseudomonas suspension16. The cyclic treatment for successive twelve months were given at monthly interval in rhizosphere of plants by adding 100-150 mlof inoculum (1×108cfu/ml) to the basin of plants. The results were compared with uninoculated control. Effect on plant and soil parameters like plant height,number of nodes/leaves, branches and NPK content of soilwere studied. The survival percentage of plants, total microbial and Pseudomonas count was alsodetermined from the rhizosphere soil after every month of the cyclic treatment. The experiment was carried out in a randomized block design (RBD). The experimental data was analyzed statisticallyusing ANOVA.



Twelve plant growth promoting rhizobacteria were isolated from apple rhizosphere and characterized as belonging to fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. on the bases of biochemical and physiological characteristics. Reynolds17(2004) also characterized isolates on the bases of biochemical tests including oxidase, catalase, gelatin hydrolysis, nitrate reduction, growth at 4 and 41°C and identified them as P. fluorescens.

The screening strategy was carried out to find out an effective PGP fluorescent Pseudomonas strain that act through the combination of several different mechanisms. The screening resulted in a group of bacteria able to produce phosphate solubilizing activity, siderophore production,HCN production, ammonia production and growth hormone production thus allowing us to select Pseudomonas strains showing multifarious plant growth promoting activities.All the fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. showed significant production of phosphate solubilizing activity, siderophores, HCN, ammonia, and growth hormones (Table 1). Overall result showed that fluorescent Pseudomonas strains L, M and C produced maximum number of plant growth promoting activities in-vitro and also inhibited major fungal pathogens of apple.

Table 1. Characterization of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. for plant growth promoting activities



fluorescent Pseudomonas isolates Plant growth promoting traits
Phosphate solubilization*

(Pi), (µg/ml)



% SU





Plant growth regulators

(µg /ml)

Auxins Gibberellins Cytokinins
An-1-Jub 17 10.5 ++++ +++ 17 150 18
An-3-Jub 36 10.5 ++ + 19 70 30
An-4-Jub 26 10.5 ++++ +++ 19 90 22
An-5-Jub 47 2.1 ++++ +++ 14 120 30
Ar-1-Jub 31 10.5 ++ 13 100 25
An-1-Sh 20 5.2 ++ 21 180 28
An-2-Sh 54 5.2 + 07 60 35
Ar-1-Sh 50 10.5 +++ 22 80 28
Ar-2-Sh 25 15.7 + ++ 21 110 28
L 39 23.0 + +++ 16 135 20
M 41 22.4 + +++ 11 140 24
C 30 50.8 + +++ 36 160 16

*Phosphate solubilizing activity expressed in terms of tricalcium phosphate solubilization which in turn represents µg/ml of soluble inorganic phosphate(Pi) in supernatant as calibrated from the standard curve of KH2PO4 (10-100 µg/ml).

**The siderophore unit (% SU) expressed as percent reduction in blue color of chrome azurol-S as compared to reference i.e.

% SU= (Ar-As)/Ar×100

where, Ar = Absorbance of reference solution at 630 nm; As = Absorbance of test solution at 630 nm




Plant growth promoting effect of PGPR strains in different crops were clearly demonstrated18. Bacterialinoculants are able to increase plant growth, germination rate, improve seedling emergence, responses to externalstress factors and protect plants from diseases19. This present investigation confirms the earlier work.In this study, inoculation of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. increased all growth and soil parameters as comparedto control plants. The performance of replanted apple rootstocks after fifteen months of cyclic treatment withindividual and consortium strains of P.  putida, P. fluorescens and P. aeruginosa along with control at two different replant sites is detailed in Table 3. The details of replant site, age of orchard and rootstocks used for field experiment were presented in Table 2. The data was presented as per cent increase over control for plant height, number of nodes and available NPK content of soil.


Table 2.Detail of replant sites and rootstocks used in field experiment


Sr. no
Replant site
Age of orchard
Rootstock replanted
Total rootstock replanted
Maggota (Shimla distt.)
>25 years
Sharontha(Shimla distt.)
>35 years




Table 3.Effect of cyclic application of individual and consortium strains of P.putida, P. fluorescens and P. aeruginosaon growth of replanted rootstocks after 15 months at Maggota and Sharontha (Shimla distt.)


Replant site Treatments


Plant height

cm, (%I)

Number of nodes


Number of branches
Maggota L 40.5 43.7 6.2
  M 8.0 58.0 6.4
C 86.1 109.5 6.6
L+M 40.9 68.0 6.6
L+C 86.5 144.5 6.4
M+C 42.9 106.5 6.4
L+M+C 33.2 104.3 6.7
Sharontha L 48.5 55.6 6
  M 51.1 51.5 6
C 65.7 69.3 6.6
L+M 27.4 68.8 6.6
L+C 28.4 56.2 7.2
M+C 31.6 60.1 7.4
L+M+C 38.1 17.4 7.6

                % I= percent increase over control



The growth performance was studied on the basis of plant height, number of nodes/leaves, chlorophyll content and number of branches. On an average in all the treatments with liquid bioformulation of individual (L, M and C) and consortial strains (L+M, L+C, M+C, L+M+C) of Pseudomonas sp. there was an increase in plant height as compared to control after 15 months of replantation of apple rootstocks in the range of 8.0 to 86.5 % increase at Maggota and 27.4 to 65.7 % increase at Sharontha as compared to control plants respectively. At Maggota maximum per cent increase in terms of plant height and number of nodes was recorded in formulation with consortia of two strains L+C (86.5 % and 144.5 %) followed by individual strain C (86.1 % and 109.5 %) whereas at Sharonthamaximum per cent increase in plant height and number of nodes was observed in formulation C (65.7 % and 69.3 %) Table 3. The maximum number of branches was observed in consortium of three strains viz., L+M+C at both the replant sites.The presentexperiment revealed that rhizosphere inoculation withPseudomonas sp. resulted in an increased plant height, number of nodes, branches and available NPK content of rhizospheric soil. Similar results have shown previously by Vermaet al., (2014)20 who reported that cyclic treatment of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. resulted in significant increase in various plant and soil parameters. Similar increase in plant height was observed in different cropsinoculated with Pseudomonas, Azospirillum and Azotobacter strains by other workers21-24.

The chlorophyll content of leaves of replanted apple rootstocks was also estimated. Results in Table 4 showed that there was not a significant increase in chlorophyll content (a, b and total) in all the treatments as compared to control. The available N, P and K of rhizosphere soil were also assessed before and after the cyclic application of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. (Table 5).The results showed that after application of Pseudomonas sp. in the field, there was a considerable increase in available NPK content of rhizosphere soil as compared to control plants. Our results were supported by the findings of Vermaet al., (2014)20

Table 4.Effect of cyclic application of individual and consortium strains of P.putida, P. fluorescens and P. aeruginosaon chlorophyll content of leaves of replanted rootstocks after 15 months at Maggota and Sharontha (Shimla distt.)


Replant site Treatments


Chlorophyll ‘a’ Chlorophyll ‘b’ Total Chlorophyll
Maggota Control 0.16 0.23 0.3
  L 0.16 0.25 0.4
M 0.18 0.24 0.4
C 0.17 0.24 0.4
L+M 0.17 0.24 0.4
L+C 0.17 0.23 0.4
M+C 0.17 0.24 0.4
L+M+C 0.17 0.23 0.4
Sharontha control 0.15 0.21 0.3
  L 0.17 0.25 0.4
  M 0.18 0.23 0.4
  C 0.17 0.25 0.4
  L+M 0.16 0.22 0.3
  L+C 0.17 0.23 0.4
  M+C 0.16 0.22 0.3
  L+M+C 0.16 0.23 0.3


Table 5.     Effect of cyclic application of liquid bioformulation of L, M, Cand their consortial formulations on available N, P, K content of rhizospheric soil of Maggota and Sharontha.




Available macronutrients NPK( kg/ha)
% increase over control (%I) after 15 month
Maggota Sharontha
N % I P % I K % I N % I P % I K % I
L 313 11.7 54 35.0 146 10.6 290 2.1 35 16.6 145 13.2
M 295 5.3 48 20.0 140 6.0 296 4.2 46 53.3 142 10.9
C 325 16.0 58 45.0 157 18.9 324 14.0 38 26.6 138 7.8
L+M 316 12.8 67 67.5 164 24.2 298 3.5 34 13.3 137 7.0
L+C 290 3.5 69 72.5 148 12.1 328 15.4 42 40.0 146 14.0
M+C 336 20.0 58 45.0 154 16.6 312 9.8 54 80.0 154 20.3
L+M+C 340 21.4 66 65.0 142 7.5 295 3.8 47 56.6 148 15.6
Control 280 40 132 284 30 128




After cyclic application of liquid formulations of both individual and consortial strains (L, M, C, L+M, L+C, M+C, L+M+C) in field the decrease in total bacterial and fungal population was observed with a gradual increase in fluorescent Pseudomonas population (Figure 1). After fifteen months of plantation, there was an increase of 20 to 46 cfu/g of soil in total fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. count in all the bioformulation treated rootstocks at both the sites. The results indicated towards the possibility of sufficient increase in number and establishment of Pseudomonas species in rhizosphere of apple plants planted in replant sites of apple orchards. They also might have decreased the deleterious microflora up to some extent.










Figure 1.Effect of cyclic application of fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. on rhizobacterial and    fungal population in apple rhizosphere


Burdet al., (2000)25 reported that plant growth promoting rhizobacteria might enhance plant height and productivity bysynthesizing phytohormones, increasing the local availability of nutrients, facilitating the uptake of nutrients by the plantsdecreasing the heavy metal toxicity in the plants antagonizing plant pathogens. The increased plant height and number of nodes/leaves as compared to control plants clearly showed the beneficial role of Pseudomonas as a rhizobacteria. Suchan improvement might be attributed to phosphate solubilising capacity of bacteria as well as the ability of these microorganismsto produce growth promoting substances26.

The results of this study suggest that plant growth promoting fluorescent Pseudomonas sp. isolated from apple rhizospherehas potential to be used successfully for replant problem of apple. There was a considerable increase in various plant and soil parameters after fifteen months of cyclic treatment of fluorescent Pseudomonas formulation. So it can be concluded from the present studythat the individual and consortium of fluorescent Pseudomonas strains can be further exploited for bio fertilizer development to overcome the replant problem in apple orchards.



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