Purdue University Graduate School


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posted on 2024-05-17, 13:54 authored by Tri Tien TranTri Tien Tran


Plant roots form an intimate relationship with a diversity of soil microorganisms. Some soil-borne microbes cause harmful diseases on crops, but others promote plant growth and enhance host resilience against stressors. Beneficial bacteria have a high potential as a strategy for sustainable agricultural management, many of which have been recognized and commercialized for improving crop growth. Unfortunately, field inoculants of beneficial bacteria often give inconsistent results due to various environmental factors hindering their beneficial properties. Improving crop production utilizing beneficial bacteria requires two approaches: 1) breeding for crops with the enhanced association for beneficial bacteria and 2) improving formulation methods for producing more potent microbial products. To contribute to these goals, we address three critical questions utilizing the tomato root microbiome as a model system. First, we asked how beneficial root-associated bacteria could be efficiently identified. We developed a strategy to select beneficial bacteria from a novel collection of 183 bacterial endophytes isolated from roots of two field-grown tomato species. The results suggest that isolates with similar traits impact plant growth at the same levels, regardless of their taxonomic classification or host origin. Next, we asked whether host genetics contribute to the root microbiome assembly and response to beneficial microbes. An assessment of the root microbiome profile and plant binary interaction experiments suggested the role of host genetics in influencing root recruitment and response to beneficial bacteria. Subsequently, we asked whether root-associated bacteria induce physiological changes in root tissues in the host. We identified two isolates from our bacterial endophyte collection that significantly promoted the growth of tomato genotype H7996 (Solanum lycopersicum). Plant-binary interaction experiments suggested a significant increase of cell wall lignification in the root vasculature starting 96-hour post-inoculation with beneficial bacteria. Additional studies are needed to uncover a possible correlation between the induced vasculature lignification and the growth-promoting effects of the two isolates on H7996. Altogether, our findings highlight the multi-faceted role of root-associated bacteria in promoting plant growth and support the development of crop improvement strategies in optimizing host association with soil bacteria.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Botany and Plant Pathology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Anjali Iyer-Pascuzzi

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Zhixiang Chen

Additional Committee Member 2

Lori Hoagland

Additional Committee Member 3

Tesfaye Mengiste