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Plant-Microbe Interactions

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The relationship between plants and microbes exemplifies such a complex, multiorganism system, dependent on both the organisms involved and the environmental forces acting upon them (Bisseling, Dangl, and Schulze- Lefert 2009). Understanding this relationship is critical to exploiting natural routes to environmental remediation processes, the terrestrial cycling of carbon, and the development and management of renewable energy sources. Microorganisms are intimately associated with various plant tissues, producing short- and long-term effects on plant growth and development. Short-term effects are especially important for improving plant establishment on marginal soils. Microbes can accelerate plant root development, thereby providing the plant with better access to nutrients and water and reducing the need for irrigation and soil amendments. These better-developed root systems also increase the belowground flux of carbon. Exploiting this property can improve belowground storage of recalcitrant carbon forms and enhance soil quality for increasing biomass production in which more labile carbon is released. Additionally, microbes can facilitate fast initial growth of a particular plant, allowing it to out-compete others for available resources. Over the long term, microbes improve plant growth, health, and survival. They also can counteract stress responses caused by drought or the presence of contamination when plants are grown on marginal soils or are used for managing and remediating contaminated sites. Furthermore, microbes can protect a plant against pathogens and directly assist the host plant by producing antimicrobial compounds.

Credit or Source: Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.


US DOE. 2009. New Frontiers in Characterizing Biological Systems: Report from the May 2009 Workshop, DOE/SC-0121, US Department of Energy Office of Science. (p. 11) (website)

Prepared by the Biological and Environmental Research Information System, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and