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  • Author or Editor: Jonathan I. Watkinson x
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Priming commercial growing media and soils with dilute sugar solutions was investigated as a means of stimulating beneficial microflora to improve transplant productivity. Muskmelon (Cucumis melo) seedlings were grown in soilless growing medium primed with equal volumes of 50 mm sucrose or trehalose. After priming, the time when 50% of plants showed wilting symptoms was delayed 45 hours and the mean time that seedling xylem tension reached –1.0 MPa was delayed 70 hours compared with watered controls. Sucrose or trehalose priming improved water retention in the presence and absence of plants grown in sphagnum-based medium after an incubation period of ≈24 h, but no improvement occurred when autoclaved medium or acid-washed sand were primed. Light micrographs of primed medium revealed positive staining of opaque material between organic-matter particles with alcian blue, a polysaccharide-specific stain. Sixteen bacterial colonies were cultured in liquid medium from leachate of positive-stained, primed, growing-medium samples and identified via 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Identified colonies were Curtobacterium pussillum, Paenibacillus lautus, Brevundimonas, and 13 Bacillus spp., including well-characterized biofilm producers. Increased soil-moisture retention was the result of a complex, glucose-based, hydrophilic, polysaccharide polymer of bacterial origin that was produced in liquid culture from extracts of primed medium.

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