The core bacterial microbiome of banana (Musa spp.)

Environ Microbiome. 2022 Sep 8;17(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s40793-022-00442-0.


Background: Bananas (Musa spp.) are a globally significant crop and are severely afflicted by diseases for which there are no effective chemical controls. Banana microbiomes may provide novel solutions to these constraints but are difficult to manage due to their high diversity and variability between locations. Hence 'common core' taxa, which are a subset of the microbiome that frequent all, or most, individuals of a host species, represent logical targets for the development of microbiome management approaches. Here, we first performed a pot experiment to characterise the effects of two factors that are likely to differ between farms (viz. edaphic conditions and host genotype) on bacterial diversity in bulk soil and seven plant compartments. From this experiment, we created shortlisted core 'candidates' that were then refined using a survey of 52 field-grown Musa spp. We confirmed the importance of the core through network analysis and by comparing the sequences of our core taxa with those reported in 22 previous studies.

Results: Diversity was found to differ between plant compartments and soils, but not genotypes. Therefore, we identified populations that were frequent across most plants irrespective of the soil in which they were grown. This led to the selection of 36 'common core' bacteria, that represented 65-95% of the dominant taxa in field-grown plants and were identified as highly interconnected 'hubs' using network analysis - a characteristic shown to be indicative of microbes that influence host fitness in studies of other plants. Lastly, we demonstrated that the core taxa are closely related to banana-associated bacteria observed on five other continents.

Conclusions: Our study provides a robust list of common core bacterial taxa for Musa spp. Further research may now focus on how changes in the frequencies and activities of these most persistent taxa influence host fitness. Notably, for several of our core taxa, highly similar populations have already been isolated in previous studies and may be amenable to such experimentation. This contribution should help to accelerate the development of effective Musa spp. microbiome management practices.

Keywords: Biocontrol; Fusarium; Plant disease; Plant growth promotion; Plant protection; Sustainable agriculture.