Plants really do feed their friends

ScienceDaily | 3/22/2018 | Staff
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"For more than a century, it's been known that plants influence the makeup of their soil microbiome, in part through the release of metabolites into the soil surrounding their roots," said Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researcher Kateryna Zhalnina, the study's lead author. "Until now, however, it was not understood whether the contents of this cocktail released by plants was matched by the feeding preferences of soil microbes in a way that would allow plants to guide the development of their external microbiome."

The study, "Dynamic root exudate chemistry and microbial substrate preferences drive patterns in rhizosphere microbial community assembly," has just been published in the journal Nature Microbiology. The corresponding authors were Berkeley Lab scientists Trent Northen and Eoin Brodie.

Microbes - Soil - Ability - Plants - Nutrients

Microbes within soil improve the ability of plants to absorb nutrients and resist drought, disease, and pests. They mediate soil carbon conversion, affecting the amount of carbon stored in soil or released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The relevance of these functions to agriculture and climate are being observed like never before.

Just one gram of soil contains tens of thousands of microbial species. Scientists have long known that plants impact the composition of the soil microbiome in the area surrounding their roots by sending out chemicals (metabolites). Prior work by Mary Firestone, Berkeley Lab faculty scientist and a professor of microbiology at UC Berkeley, had shown that plants were consistently selecting or suppressing the same types of microbes over time in the root zone, suggesting some form of synchronization between plant and microbiome development.

Research - Relationship - Metabolites - Plants - Release

Yet, little research had gone into the relationship between specific metabolites that plants release and the microbes consuming them. The new study brought together experts in soil science, microbial and plant genomics, and metabolomics to explore these potential metabolic connections. Their study took a close look at the rhizosphere...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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