Biological control of plant diseases is strongly emerging as an effective alternative to the use of chemical pesticides and fungicides. Stress tolerance is an important attribute in the selection of bacteria for the development of microbial inoculants. Fourteen salt-tolerant bacteria showing different morphological features isolated from the rhizosphere of maize were evaluated for different plant growth-promoting activities. All isolates showed auxin production ranging from 5 to 24 μg ⋅ ml–1 after 48 h incubation in tryptophan supplemented media. Phosphate solubilization ranged from 15 to 419 μg ⋅ ml–1. 1-aminocycloproprane- 1-carboxylate (ACC) deaminase activity was shown by 6 isolates, ammonia production by 9 isolates, siderophore production by 8 isolates while HCN production by 4 isolates. Four bacterial isolates with all plant growth-promoting properties also showed strong antagonistic activities against Fusarium oxysporum, F. verticillioides, Curvularia lunata and Alternaria alternata and abiotic stress tolerance against salinity, temperature, pH and calcium salts. Two selected bacterial isolates significantly enhanced the growth of pea and maize test plants under greenhouse conditions. The bacterial isolate M1B2, which showed the highest growth promotion of test plants, was identified as Bacillus sp. based on phenotypic and 16S rDNA gene sequencing. The results indicated that Bacillus sp. M1B2 is a potential candidate for the development of microbial inoculants in stressful environments.
The effects of a microbial inoculant (Thervelics®: a mixture of cells of Bacillus subtilis C-3102 and carrier materials) on rice (Oryza sativa cv. Milkyprincess) and barley (Hordeum vulgare cv. Sachiho Golden) were evaluated in four pot experiments. In the first and second experiments, the dry matter production of rice and barley increased significantly by 10–20% with the inoculation of the mixture at a rate of 107 cfu ⋅ g–1 soil compared with the non-inoculated control. In the third experiment, the growth promoting effects of the mixture, the autoclaved mixture and the carrier materials were compared. The dry mater production of rice grains was the highest in the mixture, and it was significantly higher in the three treatments than in the control, suggesting that the carrier materials may also have a plant growth promoting effect and the living cells might have an additional stimulatory effect. To confirm the efficacy of the living cells in the mixture, only B. subtilis C-3102 cells were used in the fourth experiment. In addition, to estimate the mechanisms in growth promotion by B. subtilis C-3102, three B. subtilis strains with similar or different properties in the production of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), protease and siderophore and phosphatesolubilizing ability were used as reference strains. Only B. subtilis C-3102 significantly increased the dry matter production of rice grains and the soil protease activity was consistently higher in the soil inoculated with B. subtilis C-3102 throughout the growing period. These results indicate that the microbial inoculant including live B. subtilis C-3102 may have growth promoting effects on rice and barley.