Plants have several billion personal friends

The microbiome of a plant can be just as important for the well-being of the plant as our gut microbiota are important for our own health. Researchers from Aarhus University are exploring the world of plant roots to learn more about their microbes and their functions.

2018.01.08 | Janne Hansen

You are not alone: Plant roots enjoy the company of billions of microbes, some of which are beneficial to the plant. Photo: Colourbox

You may have heard about how important our gut microbiota are for our health. Billions upon billions of bacteria, virus, fungi and single-celled organisms live in your gut and affect your digestion, immune system and maybe even your moods. Some of the microorganisms are beneficial, some are harmful – and some are just there. The tiny creatures in your gut are part of the total population of microorganisms that make up your own personal microbiome.  

The same thing is true for plants. Their health and well-being are also affected by the microorganisms that comprise their microbiome. 

- You could say that the roots are the plant’s digestive system and the microbiome is their gut microbiota, says Section Manager Mogens Nicolaisen from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University. 

- In traditional plant pathology we look at one plant and one disease at a time, but there are many other players in the field. We are therefore working on looking at the microbiome as a whole, he says.   

The first step is to describe what the microbiome consists of and how the plant contributes to forming its own personal microbiome. In this way, it could be possible to describe the differences between the microbiomes of sick and healthy plants. 


Read the article Plants design their own environments.


Once the researchers have identified the differences, the road is paved for the possibility of manipulating the microbiome with the aim of preventing plant diseases, thus reducing the need for fungicides. More knowledge in this area can also make it possible to adjust the factors in the root environment so they can support an optimal microbiome composition – i.e. find more friends for the plant. These factors can for example be certain crop rotations or cultivation techniques.   

- In general, greater knowledge and understanding lead to more and better opportunities for action, says Mogens Nicolaisen. 

 


For more information please contact: Section Manager Mogens Nicolaisen, Department of Agroecology, email: mn@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8137

Plantekongres, Agro, DCA, Crops