Root renovation: how an improved understanding of basic root biology could inform the development of elite crops that foster sustainable soil health.
- CSIRO PUBLISHING
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Functional plant biology : FPB, 2019, 46, (7), pp. 597-612
- Issue Date:
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A major goal in agricultural research is to develop 'elite' crops with stronger, resilient root systems. Within this context, breeding practices have focussed on developing plant varieties that are, primarily, able to withstand pathogen attack and, secondarily, able to maximise plant productivity. Although great strides towards breeding disease-tolerant or -resistant root stocks have been made, this has come at a cost. Emerging studies in certain crop species suggest that domestication of crops, together with soil management practices aimed at improving plant yield, may hinder beneficial soil microbial association or reduce microbial diversity in soil. To achieve more sustainable management of agricultural lands, we must not only shift our soil management practices but also our breeding strategy to include contributions from beneficial microbes. For this latter point, we need to advance our understanding of how plants communicate with, and are able to differentiate between, microbes of different lifestyles. Here, we present a review of the key findings on belowground plant-microbial interactions that have been made over the past decade, with a specific focus on how plants and microbes communicate. We also discuss the currently unresolved questions in this area, and propose plausible ways to use currently available research and integrate fast-emerging '-omics' technologies to tackle these questions. Combining past and developing research will enable the development of new crop varieties that will have new, value-added phenotypes belowground.
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