Several model plants are known to respond to bacterial quorum sensing molecules with altered root growth and gene expression patterns and induced resistance to plant pathogens. These compounds may represent novel elicitors that could be applied as seed primers to enhance cereal crop resistance to pathogens and abiotic stress and to improve yields. We investigated whether the acyl-homoserine lactone N-hexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone (C6-HSL) impacted winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) seed germination, plant development and productivity, using two Ukrainian varieties, Volodarka and Yatran 60, in both in vitro experiments and field trials. In vitro germination experiments indicated that C6-HSL seed priming had a small but significant positive impact on germination levels (1.2x increase, p < 0.0001), coleoptile and radicle development (1.4x increase, p < 0.0001). Field trials over two growing seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17) also demonstrated significant improvements in biomass at the tillering stage (1.4x increase, p < 0.0001), and crop structure and productivity at maturity including grain yield (1.4 – 1.5x increase, p < 0.0007) and quality (1.3x increase in good grain, p < 0.0001). In some cases variety effects were observed (p ≤ 0.05) suggesting that the effect of C6-HSL seed priming might depend on plant genetics, and some benefits of priming were also evident in F1 plants grown from seeds collected the previous season (p ≤ 0.05). These field-scale findings suggest that bacterial acyl-homoserine lactones such as C6-HSL could be used to improve cereal crop growth and yield and reduce reliance on fungicides and fertilisers to combat pathogens and stress.
Moshynets, O. V., Babenko, L. M., Rogalsky, S. P., Iungin, O. S., Foster, J., Kosakivska, I. V., Potters, G., & Spiers, A. J. (2019). Priming winter wheat seeds with the bacterial quorum sensing signal N-hexanoyl-L-homoserine lactone (C6-HSL) shows potential to improve plant growth and seed yield. PLoS One, 14(2), [e0209460]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209460