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Novel project utilizing microbial bio-inoculants to promote plant growth and resilience

Professor Sharon Doty’s laboratory at the University of Washington developed microbial bio-inoculants from native trees in natural ecosystems in Washington State that promote plant growth and health through increased nutrient acquisition, hormone modulation, stress reduction, and anti-fungal mechanisms.  Being from the natural plant microbiota of pioneer plant species, the microbial strains colonize the plant, increasing available nutrients through nitrogen fixation and phosphate solubilization, increasing drought tolerance, and reducing mortality during the critical establishment phase.  Some of the bioinoculants increased photosynthesis and water use efficiency, and alleviated the elevated CO2-dependent downregulation of photosynthesis in rice.  While the original research focus was on rice, maize, and conifers, the bio-inoculants have since been used in a broad range of crop plants.  In greenhouse and field trials in low-nutrient conditions in California, the bio-inoculants increased growth and yields of strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, corn, and more.

Professor Doty in collaboration with Washington State University Professor Lee Kalcsits and Extension Specialist Bernardita Sallato started a new project funded by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), Specialty Crop Block Grant to optimize natural bioinoculants for Washington tree fruit industry for reduced inputs of fertilizer and water, and for increased abiotic stress tolerance. They will test a suite of bioinoculant strains for improved crop growth and health under greenhouse conditions with reduced fertilizer and water regimes and increased temperatures, monitoring the plants for nutrient acquisition and physiological parameters. In the final year of the grant, they will begin field testing with the goal of providing effective, resilient organic and environmentally sustainable production of specialty crops in Washington State.

Contact Information


Bernardita Sallato C.
WSU Tree Fruit Extension Specialist
24106 N Bunn Rd,
Prosser, WA 99350, USA
Phone: 509 4398542 articles may only be republished with prior author permission © Washington State University. Republished articles with permission must include: “Originally published by Washington State Tree Fruit Extension Fruit Matters at” along with author(s) name, and a link to the original article.

Washington State University