Olive orchard microbiome: characterisation of bacterial communities in soil-plant compartments and their comparison between sustainable and conventional soil management systems

Background: Beneficial bacteria-plant interactions play an important role in agriculture, positively affecting plant status and improving product quality. Bacterial endophytes contribute to host plant protection and survival.

Aim: This study characterised the bacterial communities present in soil, leaf surface and xylem sap of olive trees, and investigated their response under a sustainable (Smng) or a conventional (Cmng) management system in an olive grove located in southern Italy. The aims are: (a) to understand if soil bacteria enter xylem and reach leaves and (b) to verify if the bacterial communities in the two management systems deeply differ due to the different agronomic practices applied in Smng and in Cmng.

Methods: Therefore, a metagenomic approach was used to detect microorganisms, in order to estimate bacterial diversity and abundance, and to identify the bacterial taxa in the three analysed compartments in plants subjected to Smng and Cmng systems.

Results: Bacterial communities came from the soil and reached aerial plant parts through xylem sap. The application of different agronomic practices influenced the composition of soil bacterial communities.

Conclusions: The potential benefits of the specific bacterial taxa detected under the Smng system could improve plant growth protection and provide a higher crop quality in fruit plants.