Like humans, plants are colonized by billions of microbes. Some of these are pathogenic and can cause disease but most are polite guests which use the nutrient rich environments of higher organisms to thrive and establish a niche.
The host in turn takes advantage of the ability of microbes to synthesize or assimilate essential metabolites which can enhance growth and fitness of the host. It has also been reported that some plant-associated microbes prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria or fungi. Additionally, bacterial biofilms (concentrated patches of bacteria) might protect the plant from stressful environmental conditions.
By studying the types of individuals that make up such microbial populations and which factors regulate the community structure, CEPLAS is paving the way to ecologically based applications in agriculture.
Gaining a deeper knowledge of plant-associated microbes might be the key to enhancing plant health and productivity, while at the same time reducing reliance on fertilizers and chemical disease treatments that harm the environment in large parts of the world.
Contribution by Friederike Brüssow, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Under the heading Planter’s Punch we present each month one special aspect of the CEPLAS research programme. All contributions are prepared by our young researchers.