Background: The shade represents one of the major environmental limitations for turfgrass growth. Shade influences plant growth and alters plant metabolism, yet little is known about how shade affects the structure of rhizosphere soil microbial communities and the role of soil microorganisms in plant shade responses. In this study, a glasshouse experiment was conducted to examine the impact of shade on the growth and photosynthetic capacity of two contrasting shade-tolerant turfgrasses, shade-tolerant dwarf lilyturf (Ophiopogon japonicus, OJ) and shade-intolerant perennial turf-type ryegrass (Lolium perenne, LP). We also examined soil-plant feedback effects on shade tolerance in the two turfgrass genotypes. The composition of the soil bacterial community was assayed using high-throughput sequencing.
Results: OJ maintained higher photosynthetic capacity and root growth than LP under shade stress, thus OJ was found to be more shade-tolerant than LP. Shade-intolerant LP responded better to both shade and soil microbes than shade-tolerant OJ. The shade and live soil decreased LP growth, but increased biomass allocation to shoots in the live soil. The plant shade response index of LP is higher in live soil than sterile soil, driven by weakened soil-plant feedback under shade stress. In contrast, there was no difference in these values for OJ under similar shade and soil treatments. Shade stress had little impact on the diversity of the OJ and the LP bacterial communities, but instead impacted their composition. The OJ soil bacterial communities were mostly composed of Proteobacteria and Acidobacteria. Further pairwise fitting analysis showed that a positive correlation of shade-tolerance in two turfgrasses and their bacterial community compositions. Several soil properties (NO3--N, NH4+-N, AK) showed a tight coupling with several major bacterial communities under shade stress. Moreover, OJ shared core bacterial taxa known to promote plant growth and confer tolerance to shade stress, which suggests common principles underpinning OJ-microbe interactions.
Conclusion: Soil microorganisms mediate plant responses to shade stress via plant-soil feedback and shade-induced change in the rhizosphere soil bacterial community structure for OJ and LP plants. These findings emphasize the importance of understanding plant-soil interactions and their role in the mechanisms underlying shade tolerance in shade-tolerant turfgrasses.
Keywords: 16S rRNA gene sequencing; Community structure and diversity; Plant-soil feedback; Rhizosphere bacteria; Shade stress; Shade tolerance.