Context. The production of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) is negatively affected by boron (B) deficiency. In Pakistan, the crop grown under B deficiency produces grains with low B concentration. Application of B-tolerant bacteria (BTB) is a promising option to improve B supply to plants grown under B deficiency.
Aims. This study was focused on determining the appropriate concentration of B for seed priming, and its effects with BTB inoculation on growth, productivity and grain B concentration of chickpea.
Methods. Chickpea seeds were primed in aerated solutions of B concentrations in the range 0.01–0.5% (w/v), with hydroprimed and dry seeds as controls. Concentrations >0.1% proved toxic and seeds failed to germinate. Hence, B was further diluted to concentrations in the range 0.0001–0.1%. Pots containing chickpea seeds were divided into two sets having all B treatments. One set was inoculated with BTB (5 mL per pot of pure Bacillus sp. MN54 culture at 10 9 cfu mL-1); the other set was not inoculated.
Key results. Seed priming with B along with BTB inoculation improved stand establishment, growth, nodulation, yield and grain B concentration of chickpea. Seed priming treatments with B at 0.001% and 0.0001% along with BTB inoculation were most effective for improving stand establishment, seedling growth and grain yield, whereas 0.1% B was more effective for improving grain B concentration.
Conclusions. Seed priming with 0.001% B along with inoculation of Bacillus sp. MN54 improved seed germination, nodulation, yield and grain B concentration of chickpea under B-deficiency conditions.
Implications. Seed inoculation with BTB i.e., Bacillus sp. MN54 coupled with seed priming in 0.001% B solution is a viable option to improve yield and grain B concentration of chickpea grown on B-deficient soils.