The relationship between Sarracenia oreophila and an endophytic Burkholderia
Kuntz, Veronica L.
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Plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) have been studied in many agriculturally interesting plants, but never in pitcher plants. Sarracenia oreophila (the green pitcher plant) is an endangered species in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina (Rice 2010). With the help of Dr. Jim Spain's lab, a previous student in Dr. Gerald Pullman's lab discovered evidence that nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Burkholderia spp.) live within these pitcher plants. This study aims to determine whether these nitrogen-fixing bacteria confer a benefit to their host plants by providing fixed nitrogen. To do this, pitcher plants were inoculated with the Burkholderia and grown on a control medium, a medium without sugar (as the sugar causes the bacteria to grow until they hinder the plants), various media that are missing nitrogen-containing compounds usually provided in growth media, and a medium completely lacking nitrogen. These plants were compared to control plants on the same media that had not been inoculated with Burkholderia. The plants' biomass and root growth were measured. The data suggest that Burkholderia may stimulate plant biomass growth when sufficient nitrogen is present and there may be a nitrogen-threshold that needs to be met in order to sustain the Burkholderia-Sarracenia symbiosis. Also, the Burkholderia has a negative effect on roots grown in high-nitrogen media, possibly due to competition for nutrients.