Cold-adapted plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) with multiple functions are an important resource for microbial fertilizers with low-temperature application. In this study, culturable cold-adapted PGPB strains with nitrogen fixation and phosphorus solubilization abilities were isolated. They were screened from root and rhizosphere of four dominant grass species in nondegraded alpine grasslands of the Qilian Mountains, China. Their other growth-promoting characteristics, including secretion of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), production of siderophores and ACC deaminase, and antifungal activity, were further studied by qualitative and quantitative methods. In addition, whether the PGPB strains could still exert plant growth-promoting activity at 4°C was verified. The results showed that 67 isolates could maintain one or more growth-promoting traits at 4°C, and these isolates were defined as cold-adapted PGPB. They were divided into 8 genera by 16S rRNA gene sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, of which Pseudomonas (64.2%) and Serratia (13.4%) were the common dominant genera, and a few specific genera varied among the plant species. A test-tube culture showed that inoculation of Elymus nutans seedlings with cold-adapted PGPB possessing different functional characteristics had a significant growth-promoting effect under controlled low-temperature conditions, including the development of the roots and aboveground parts. Pearson correlation analysis revealed that different growth-promoting characteristics made different contributions to the development of the roots and aboveground parts. These cold-adapted PGPB can be used as excellent strain resources suitable for the near-natural restoration of degraded alpine grasslands or agriculture stock production in cold areas.
Keywords: Plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB); alpine grasslands; cold-adapted; screen; the Qilian Mountains.