The Response of Maize to Inoculation with Arthrobacter sp. and Bacillus sp. in Phosphorus-Deficient, Salinity-Affected Soil
Salinity and phosphorus (P) deficiency are among the most serious soil factors constraining crop productivity. A proposed strategy for alleviating these stresses is supporting plants by inoculation with growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). Here, a comparison of the ability of two maize composite and two F1 hybrid varieties to tolerate a P deficiency in either a saline or a non-saline environment showed that the uptake of nutrients by all four entries was significantly reduced by the imposition of both soil salinity and P deficiency, and that their growth was compromised to a similar extent. Subsequently, the ameliorative effect of inoculation with three strains of either Arthrobacter sp. or Bacillus sp. in an environment, which suffered simultaneously from salinity and P deficiency, was investigated. Inoculation with each of the strains was found to limit the plants' uptake of sodium cations, to increase their uptake of potassium cations, and to enhance their growth. The extent of the growth stimulation was more pronounced for the composite varieties than for the F1 hybrid ones, although the amount of biomass accumulated by the latter, whether the plants had been inoculated or not, was greater than that of the former varieties. When the bacterial strains were cultured in vitro, each of them was shown as able to produce the phytohormones auxin, abscisic acid, gibberellins, and cytokinins. The implication is that since the presence in the rhizospere of both Arthrobacter sp. and Bacillus sp. strains can support the growth of maize in salinity-affected and P deficient soils in a genotype-dependent fashion, it is important to not only optimize the PGPR strain used for inoculation, but also to select maize varieties which can benefit most strongly from an association with these bacteria.