Community structure and plant growth-promoting potential of cultivable bacteria isolated from Cameroon soil
Exploiting native plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) in Cameroonian agro-ecosystems provides a means to improve plant–microbe interactions that may enhance ecosystem sustainability and agricultural productivity in an environmentally eco-friendly way. Consequently, we aimed to investigate the community structure and functional PGPR diversity of maize grown in Cameroon. Native bacteria isolated from Cameroon maize rhizosphere soil were identified by partial 16S rRNA gene sequencing and screened for traits particularly relevant for Cameroon low-fertility soil conditions, such as their abilities to tolerate high concentrations of salt, and their plant growth- promoting potential. Genetic and functional diversity was characterized according to their phylogenetic affiliation. A total of 143 bacteria were identified and assigned to 3 phyla (Actinobacteria, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria), 13 families and 20 genera. Bacillus (31.5%), Arthrobacter (17.5%), and Sinomonas (13.3%) were the most abundant genera identified among all the isolates. Based on their in vitro characterization, 88.1% were salt tolerant at 2% NaCl, but only 16.8% could tolerate 8% NaCl, 50.4% solubilized phosphate, 10.5% possessed the nifH gene, and 19.6% produced siderophores. Six isolates affiliated to the most abundant genera identified in this work, Bacillus and Arthrobacter, carrying multiple or only single tested traits were selected to evaluate their growth- promoting potential in an in vitro maize germination assay. Three strains possessing multiple traits induced significantly increased hypocotyl and root length of maize seeds compared to non-inoculated control seeds. Our results indicate the potential of selected indigenous Cameroon rhizobacteria to enhance maize growth.