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Keywords:

  • Azospirillum brasilense ;
  • energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy;
  • plant mineral nutrition;
  • scanning electron microscopy;
  • strawberry

Abstract

The elemental composition of strawberry plants (Fragaria ananassa cv. Macarena) inoculated with the plant growth-promoting bacterium Azospirillum brasilense REC3, and non-inoculated controls, was studied using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray (EDS) analysis. This allowed simultaneous semi-quantification of different elements in a small, solid sample. Plants were inoculated and grown hydroponically in 50% or 100% Hoagland solution, corresponding to limited or optimum nutrient medium, respectively. Bacteria-inoculated plants increased the growth index 45% and 80% compared to controls when grown in 100% and 50% Hoagland solution, respectively. Thus, inoculation with A. brasilense REC3 in a nutrient-limited medium had the strongest effect in terms of increasing both shoot and root biomass and growth index, as already described for Azospirillum inoculated into nutrient-poor soils. SEM-EDS spectra and maps showed the elemental composition and relative distribution of nutrients in strawberry tissues. Leaves contained C, O, N, Na, P, K, Ca and Cu, while roots also had Si and Cl. The organic fraction (C, O and N) accounted for over 96.3% of the total chemical composition; of the mineral fraction, Na had higher accumulation in both leaves and roots. Azospirillum-inoculated and control plants had similar elemental quantities; however, in bacteria-inoculated roots, P was significantly increased (34.33%), which constitutes a major benefit for plant nutrition, while Cu content decreased (35.16%).