Selected Rhizosphere Bacteria Help Tomato Plants Cope with Combined Phosphorus and Salt Stresses
Plants are often challenged by multiple abiotic stresses simultaneously. The inoculation of beneficial bacteria is known to enhance plant growth under these stresses, such as phosphorus starvation or salt stress. Here, for the first time, we assessed the efficiency of selected beneficial bacterial strains in improving tomato plant growth to better cope with double stresses in salty and P-deficient soil conditions. Six strains of Arthrobacter and Bacillus with different reservoirs of plant growth-promoting traits were tested in vitro for their abilities to tolerate 2–16% (w/v) NaCl concentrations, and shown to retain their motility and phosphate-solubilizing capacity under salt stress conditions. Whether these selected bacteria promote tomato plant growth under combined P and salt stresses was investigated in greenhouse experiments. Bacterial isolates from Cameroonian soils mobilized P from different phosphate sources in shaking culture under both non-saline and saline conditions. They also enhanced plant growth in P-deficient and salt-affected soils by 47–115%, and their PGP effect was even increased in higher salt stress conditions. The results provide valuable information for prospective production of effective bio-fertilizers based on the combined application of local rock phosphate and halotolerant phosphate-solubilizing bacteria. This constitutes a promising strategy to improve plant growth in P-deficient and salt-affected soils.