The role of the microbial community in mediating fish and plant co-culture is often considered the black box of aquaponics. Despite widespread recognition regarding the dependency of plants on their rhizosphere, the extent to which upstream aquaculture influences downstream hydroponic root communities has been poorly described in the literature. This study performed a taxonomic survey (16S rRNA metabarcoding) of microbial communities originating in the facility water source, hydroponic nutrient solution (HNS) sump, nutrient supplemented biofilter effluent (BF) sump, and recirculating aquaculture system tanks stocked with Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) was then grown using the HNS and BF effluent under sterilized or mature (prior aquaponics/hydroponics lettuce culture water) conditions, likewise, the influence of probiotic addition or inoculation with soil-grown lettuce rhizosphere was assessed. Compositional similarities across treatments suggest that under soil-less conditions, plants are able to exert a stronger discriminatory influence on their rhizosphere composition than is done by colonization from upstream sources.
Furthermore, cluster dendrograms grouped the sterilized and unsterilized treatments more consistently together than hydroponics and aquaponics treatments. These findings contradict conventional beliefs that microbial communities in the water column colonize roots based on their presence alone, ignoring the role that plants play in rhizosphere community selection.
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Lobanov, Victor & Keesman, Karel & Joyce, Alyssa. (2022). Plants Dictate Root Microbial Composition in Hydroponics and Aquaponics. Frontiers in Microbiology. 13. 848057. 10.3389/fmicb.2022.848057.