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Influence of boxwood species and cultivars on the rhizosphere microbiome

Nicholas LeBlanc: USDA-ARS

<div>There is growing interest in leveraging the microorganisms associated with boxwood and other ornamental plants to improve plant health. However, it is unknown if different species or cultivars of boxwood influence the composition or diversity of plant associated microorganisms. This work characterized the composition and diversity of microorganisms in the rhizosphere of healthy boxwood in the U.S. National Arboretum Boxwood Collection. Soil samples were collected from the rhizosphere of 80 individual plants, representing 4 species of boxwood and 10 cultivars of the common species <em>Buxus sempervirens</em>. Extracted soil DNA was used to create amplicon libraries targeting archaea, bacteria, and fungi. Libraries were sequenced using Illumina MiSeq v3 chemistry and sequence variants were inferred using the Divisive Amplicon Denoising Algorithm (DADA2). Overall, 15580 sequence variants were identified from bacteria, 7526 from fungi, and 276 from archaea. Based on statistical tests and visualization of these data, there was limited evidence that the composition or diversity of these 3 microbial groups was influenced by the 4 boxwood species. However, within the species <em>B. sempervirens</em>, bacterial diversity was significantly different among the 10 sampled cultivars. The outcomes of this work suggest the growth of different <em>B. sempervirens </em>cultivars in the landscape may alter the functional activity associated with bacteria, such as plant pathogen suppression.</div>