Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have discovered that maize crops emit chemical signals which attract growth-promoting microbes to live amongst their roots. This is the first chemical signal that has been shown to attract beneficial bacteria to the maize root environment.
The study was led by Dr Andy Neal of Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and Dr Jurriaan Ton of the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. By deepening our understanding of how cereals interact with microorganisms in the soil their research aims to contribute to ongoing efforts to increase cereal yields sustainably to feed a growing world population.
This research could be particularly useful in the fight against soil-borne pests and diseases. By breeding plants that are better at recruiting disease suppressing and growth promoting bacteria scientists hope to reduce agricultural reliance on fertilisers and pesticides.
The research is published today (24 April 2012) in the open-access journal PLoS One.
Dr Andrew Neal, who co-led the research, said "We have known for a while that certain plants exude chemicals from their roots that attract other organisms to the area. In fact, the environment around a plant's roots teems with microorganisms and populations of bacterial cells can be up to 100 times denser around roots than elsewhere. Simple compounds such as sugars and organic acids are attractive to these microorganisms as they are a good source of energy; however other more complex chemicals were not known to serve as attractants because they were typically thought of as toxic.
"Now we have evidence that certain bacteria we studied a common soil bacterium called Pseudomonas putida use these chemical toxins to locate a plant's roots. The plant benefits from the presence of these bacteria because they make important nutrients like iron and phosphorous mor
|Contact: Mike Davies|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council