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Crop Biotech Update

University of Toronto Study Says Root Microbiome Key to Drought Resistant Plants

February 7, 2018

A new study by a University of Toronto researcher has found that micro-organisms are critical to the growth and health of plants. The plant's root microbiome is responsible for important functions such as nutrient uptake and signals important to plant development.

Connor Fitzpatrick grew 30 species of plants found in the Greater Toronto Area from seed in identical soil mixtures in the lab. These are plants such as goldenrod, milkweed, and asters. The plants were raised for a full growing season (16 weeks), with each species grown in both permissive and simulated drought conditions. The research explores the commonalities and differences among the root microbiomes of various host plant species, dividing the microbiomes into the endosphere (microbes living inside roots) and rhizosphere (microbes living in the soil surrounding roots). He found variation across the 30 species, with related species having more similarity between microbiomes than diverse species.

Aside from providing deeper understanding of plant evolution and development, Fitzpatrick's research offers further avenues for study, including how and why some plants recruit bacteria that impact drought resistance while others don't.

For more details, read the news release from the University of Toronto.