Use of beneficial rhizobacteria to enhance growth and induce systemic disease protection in transplants. Plant associated bacteria have been studied for the capacity to provide plant growth enhancement and biological disease control. “Rhizobacteria” are bacteria from the rhizosphere that have the capacity to colonize plant roots following introduction onto seeds or into soil. Effects of rhizobacteria on plants may be deleterious, neutral, or beneficial. Beneficial rhizobacteria are termed “PGPR—plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria.” In developmental studies aimed at reducing to practice the concept of induced systemic disease protection mediated by PGPR, we discovered that mixtures of PGPR and an organic amendment into the soilless media used to prepare tomato transplants resulted in highly significant and reproducible plant growth promotion. Time for development of transplants was typically reduced from 6 weeks for controls receiving industry standard fertility and growth regimes to 4 weeks for seedlings grown in soilless mix into which the PGPR had been incorporated. This marked growth promotion was also associated with systemic protection against pathogens. When transplants were inoculated with the tomato spot pathogen, significantly fewer lesions developed on plants grown in the biological system than on control plants. Similar effects on plant growth and systemic disease protection were seen with cucumber, bell pepper, and tobacco, suggesting that the benefits are not highly crop or cultivar specific. Results of recent field studies will be presented. We conclude that incorporation of PGPR into soilless mixes is a technologically useful and feasible way to deliver benefits to transplants.
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