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Chronic drought differentially alters the belowground microbiome of drought tolerant and drought susceptible genotypes of Populus trichocarpa

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Phytobiomes Journal
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Populus trichocarpa is an ecologically important tree species and economically important biofeedstock. Belowground, P. trichocarpa interacts with diverse microorganisms in the rhizosphere and root endosphere. These plant-microbial interactions can bolster a variety of plant processes, ranging from pathogen suppression to drought tolerance, yet we know little about the impact of chronic drought stress on P. trichocarpa’s belowground microbiomes. To investigate the interactive effect of chronic drought on belowground microbial communities across genetically different P. trichocarpa hosts, we assessed archaeal/bacterial and fungal communities within the root endosphere, rhizosphere, and surrounding bulk soil of selected genotypes in a long-term drought experiment in Boardman, OR, USA. We sequenced the 16S rRNA and ITS2 gene region on samples collected from 16 distinct P. trichocarpa genotypes in plots with full or reduced irrigation. Eight of these genotypes have been previously identified as drought tolerant while the other eight genotypes were drought susceptible. While reduced irrigation influenced the composition of every archaeal/bacterial microbiome compartment, fungal communities were only affected in the rhizosphere and bulk soil compartments. Drought-tolerant bacteria, such as Actinobacteria, were differentially abundant in reduced irrigation across all belowground microbiomes. Host drought-tolerance influenced plant-associated microbiome compartments but had little impact on the bulk soil compartment. Drought-tolerant trees were enriched for potential growth-promoting microorganisms in the root endosphere and rhizosphere, including Sphingomonas bacteria and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Overall, associations of growth-promoting microbes in drought resistant P. trichocarpa genotypes can be leveraged to improve biofeedstock productivity in regions prone to periodic drought.