Exploring the Microbiota of East African Indigenous Leafy Greens for Plant Growth, Health, and Resilience

Julian Taffner, Olivia Laggner, Adrian Wolfgang, Danny Coyne, Gabriele Berg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Indigenous leafy green vegetable crops provide a promising nutritious alternative for East African agriculture under a changing climate; they are better able to cope with biotic and abiotic stresses than cosmopolitan vegetable crops. To verify our hypothesis that the associated microbiome is involved, we studied archaeal and bacterial communities of four locally popular leafy green crops in Uganda (Bidens pilosa, Solanum scabrum, Abelmoschus esculentus, and Gynandropsis gynandra) and of four plant microhabitats (phyllosphere, root endosphere, rhizosphere, and soil) by complementary analyses of amplicon and isolate libraries. All plants shared an unusually large core microbiome, comprising 18 procaryotic families but primarily consisting of Bacillus, Sphingobium, Comamonadaceae, Pseudomonas, and one archaeon from the soil crenarchaeotic group. Microbiome composition did not differ significantly for plant species but differed for microhabitats. The diversity was, in general, higher for bacteria (27,697 ASVs/H = 6.91) than for archaea (2,995 ASVs/H = 4.91); both groups form a robust network of copiotrophic bacteria and oligotrophic archaea. Screening of selected isolates for stress and plant health protecting traits showed that strains of Bacillus and Sphingomonas spp. div. constituted a substantial portion (15–31%) of the prokaryotic plant-associated communities. Across plant species, microbiota were characterized by a high proportion of potential copiotrophic and plant-beneficial species, which was not specific by plant species. The use of identified plant-beneficial isolates could provide the basis for the development of consortia of isolates for both abiotic and biotic stress protection to improve plant and ecosystem health, ensuring food security in East Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number585690
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2020


  • amplicon analysis
  • archaea
  • leafy green vegetables
  • PGPR
  • plant microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


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