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Microbiologyopen. 2019 Aug 22:e918. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.918. [Epub ahead of print]

Temporal and spatial variation in bacterial communities of "Jonagold" apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) and "Conference" pear (Pyrus communis L.) floral nectar.

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Laboratory for Fruit Breeding and Biotechnology, Department of Biosystems, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Plant Conservation and Population Biology, Biology Department, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Laboratory for Process Microbial Ecology and Bioinspirational Management, Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems, KU Leuven, Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium.


Production of many agricultural crops and fruits strongly depends on pollinators. For instance, pome fruits such as apple and pear are highly dependent on pollination for fruit set, fruit quality, and yield. Nectar is often inhabited by microbes, most often yeasts and bacteria, which may change nectar quality and therefore also affect plant-pollinator interactions. Here, we used high-throughput 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing to investigate the temporal and spatial variation in bacterial communities in floral nectar of apple and pear. We sampled 15 apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) and 15 pear (Pyrus communis L.) orchards distributed over the eastern part of Belgium over a timespan of seven days. Nectar bacterial community composition differed strongly among fruit species. Nectar of pear was dominated by Actinobacteria, followed by Proteobacteria and Firmicutes. Apple nectar was strongly enriched in Bacteroidetes, a phylum which until now has been found to be rarely associated with floral nectar. Nectar was dominated by only a few bacterial species, with Brevibacterium (Actinobacteria) and Undibacterium (Proteobacteria) as the most abundant bacteria in pear and apple nectar, respectively. Bacterial richness and diversity were found to fluctuate during flowering, likely due to changing environmental conditions. Additionally, spatial structure in nectar bacterial community composition was found in apple orchards, while this was not the case for pear. Differences in nectar bacterial communities between apple and pear nectar may differently affect the chemical and nutritional composition of the nectar, influencing pollinator attraction and visitation, and thus pollination efficacy in general.


Jonagold; conference; metagenomic analysis; nectar bacteria; pollination; pome fruit

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