16S rRNA metagenomic analysis of the bacterial community associated with turf grass seeds from low moisture and high moisture climates

Qiang Chen, William A. Meyer, Qiuwei Zhang, James F. White

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1 Scopus citations


Turfgrass investigators have observed that plantings of grass seeds produced in moist climates produce seedling stands that show greater stand evenness with reduced disease compared to those grown from seeds produced in dry climates. Grass seeds carry microbes on their surfaces that become endophytic in seedlings and promote seedling growth. We hypothesize that incomplete development of the microbiome associated with the surface of seeds produced in dry climates reduces the performance of seeds. Little is known about the influence of moisture on the structure of this microbial community. We conducted metagenomic analysis of the bacterial communities associated with seeds of three turf species (Festuca rubra, Lolium arundinacea, and Lolium perenne) from low moisture (LM) and high moisture (HM) climates. The bacterial communities were characterized by Illumina high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA V3-V4 regions. We performed seed germination tests and analyzed the correlations between the abundance of different bacterial groups and seed germination at different taxonomy ranks. Climate appeared to structure the bacterial communities associated with seeds. LM seeds vectored mainly Proteobacteria (89%). HM seeds vectored a denser and more diverse bacterial community that included Proteobacteria (50%) and Bacteroides (39%). At the genus level, Pedobacter (20%), Sphingomonas (13%), Massilia (12%), Pantoea (12%) and Pseudomonas (11%) were the major genera in the bacterial communities regardless of climate conditions. Massilia, Pantoea and Pseudomonas dominated LM seeds, while Pedobacter and Sphingomonas dominated HM seeds. The species of turf seeds did not appear to influence bacterial community composition. The seeds of the three turf species showed a core microbiome consisting of 27 genera from phyla Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Patescibacteria and Proteobacteria. Differences in seed-vectored microbes, in terms of diversity and density between high and LM climates, may result from effects of moisture level on the colonization of microbes and the development of microbe community on seed surface tissues (adherent paleas and lemmas). The greater diversity and density of seed vectored microbes in HM climates may benefit seedlings by helping them tolerate stress and fight disease organisms, but this dense microbial community may also compete with seedlings for nutrients, slowing or modulating seed germination and seedling growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8417
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


  • High-throughput sequencing
  • Metagenomics
  • Moisture
  • Seed microbes

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