Frontiers in Plant Science (Sep 2018)

Characterization of Biostimulant Mode of Action Using Novel Multi-Trait High-Throughput Screening of Arabidopsis Germination and Rosette Growth

  • Lydia Ugena,
  • Adéla Hýlová,
  • Kateřina Podlešáková,
  • Jan F. Humplík,
  • Jan F. Humplík,
  • Karel Doležal,
  • Nuria De Diego,
  • Lukáš Spíchal

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9


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Environmental stresses have a significant effect on agricultural crop productivity worldwide. Exposure of seeds to abiotic stresses, such as salinity among others, results in lower seed viability, reduced germination, and poor seedling establishment. Alternative agronomic practices, e.g., the use of plant biostimulants, have attracted considerable interest from the scientific community and commercial enterprises. Biostimulants, i.e., products of biological origin (including bacteria, fungi, seaweeds, higher plants, or animals) have significant potential for (i) improving physiological processes in plants and (ii) stimulating germination, growth and stress tolerance. However, biostimulants are diverse, and can range from single compounds to complex matrices with different groups of bioactive components that have only been partly characterized. Due to the complex mixtures of biologically active compounds present in biostimulants, efficient methods for characterizing their potential mode of action are needed. In this study, we report the development of a novel complex approach to biological activity testing, based on multi-trait high-throughput screening (MTHTS) of Arabidopsis characteristics. These include the in vitro germination rate, early seedling establishment capacity, growth capacity under stress and stress response. The method is suitable for identifying new biostimulants and characterizing their mode of action. Representatives of compatible solutes such as amino acids and polyamines known to be present in many of the biostimulant irrespective of their origin, i.e., well-established biostimulants that enhance stress tolerance and crop productivity, were used for the assay optimization and validation. The selected compounds were applied through seed priming over a broad concentration range and the effect was investigated simultaneously under control, moderate stress and severe salt stress conditions. The new MTHTS approach represents a powerful tool in the field of biostimulant research and development and offers direct classification of the biostimulants mode of action into three categories: (1) plant growth promotors/inhibitors, (2) stress alleviators, and (3) combined action.