Soil Microbiome Influences on Seedling Establishment and Growth of Prosopis chilensis and Prosopis tamarugo from Northern Chile

Plants (Basel). 2022 Oct 14;11(20):2717. doi: 10.3390/plants11202717.


Prosopis chilensis and Prosopis tamarugo, two woody legumes adapted to the arid regions of Chile, have a declining distribution due to the lack of new seedling establishment. This study investigated the potential of both species to establish in soil collected from four locations in Chile, within and outside the species distribution, and to assess the role of the root-colonizing microbiome in seedling establishment and growth. Seedling survival, height, and water potential were measured to assess establishment success and growth. 16S and ITS2 amplicon sequencing was used to characterize the composition of microbial communities from the different soils and to assess the ability of both Prosopis species to recruit bacteria and fungi from the different soils. Both species were established on three of the four soils. P. tamarugo seedlings showed significantly higher survival in foreign soils and maintained significantly higher water potential in Mediterranean soils. Amplicon sequencing showed that the four soils harbored distinct microbial communities. Root-associated microbial composition indicated that P. chilensis preferentially recruited mycorrhizal fungal partners while P. tamarugo recruited abundant bacteria with known salt-protective functions. Our results suggest that a combination of edaphic properties and microbial soil legacy are potential factors mediating the Prosopis establishment success in different soils.

Keywords: Atacama Desert; Prosopis chilensis; Prosopis tamarugo; northern Chile; plant–microbe interactions; soil microbiome.

Grants and funding

This research was supported by funds from the Swedish University of Agricultural Science’s Trees and Crops for the Future (TC4F) program to V.H.