U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Root Microbial Populations May Enhance Tree Productivity
Published: October 16, 2013
Posted: February 04, 2014

Bacterial and fungal communities inhabiting the soil around a plant’s roots (the rhizosphere) as well as within the roots (the endosphere) can signifi­cantly benefit the plant’s overall health and productivity, especially in long-lived perennials such as trees. However, the molecular mechanisms that regulate these very complex interactions between plants and microbes are difficult to study and poorly understood. To gain insight into these interactions, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted a detailed study of the rhizosphere and endosphere “microbiomes” of the Eastern Cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides), a promising bioenergy feedstock candidate, from two natural settings in North Carolina and Tennessee and over two seasons. While much of the observed variation is still to be explained, the group did find significant differences in microbial communities between the two locations and between the fall and spring seasons. Additionally, they found that microbes within roots were very different from those just outside the roots, indicating that selection for specific, rather than random, microbes to colonize plant roots may occur. The results suggest that these beneficial microbes might be manipulated to enhance plant growth and productivity as well as increase resistance and adaptability to environmental stresses.

Reference: Shakya, M., N. Gottel, H. Castro, Z. K. Yang, L. Gunter, J. Labbé, W. Muchero, G. Bonito, R. Vilgalys, G. Tuskan, M. Podar, and C. W. Schadt. 2013 “A Multifactor Analysis of Fungal and Bacterial Community Structure in the Root Microbiome of Mature Populus deltoides Trees,” PLoS ONE 8(10), e76382. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0076382. (Reference link)

Contact: Cathy Ronning, SC-23.2, (301) 903-9549
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)