Even in homogeneous conditions, plants facing a soilborne pathogen tend to show a binary outcome with individuals either remaining fully healthy or developing severe to lethal disease symptoms. As the rhizosphere microbiome is a major determinant of plant health, we postulated that such a binary outcome may result from an early divergence in the rhizosphere microbiome assembly that may further cascade into varying disease suppression abilities. We tested this hypothesis by setting up a longitudinal study of tomato plants growing in a natural but homogenized soil infested with the soilborne bacterial pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum. Starting from an originally identical species pool, individual rhizosphere microbiome compositions rapidly diverged into multiple configurations during the plant vegetative growth. This variation in community composition was strongly associated with later disease development during the later fruiting state. Most interestingly, these patterns also significantly predicted disease outcomes 2 weeks before any difference in pathogen density became apparent between the healthy and diseased groups. In this system, a total of 135 bacterial OTUs were associated with persistent healthy plants. Five of these enriched OTUs (Lysinibacillus, Pseudarthrobacter, Bordetella, Bacillus, and Chryseobacterium) were isolated and shown to reduce disease severity by 30.4–100% when co-introduced with the pathogen. Overall, our results demonstrated that an initially homogenized soil can rapidly diverge into rhizosphere microbiomes varying in their ability to promote plant protection. This suggests that early life interventions may have significant effects on later microbiome states, and highlights an exciting opportunity for microbiome diagnostics and plant disease prevention.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics