Just as the microorganisms in our gut are increasingly recognized as important players in human health and behavior, new research from the University of Toronto Mississauga demonstrates that microorganisms are equally critical to the growth and health of plants. For example, plants that are able to recruit particular bacteria to their root microbiomes are much more drought resistant than their fellows, says UTM PhD candidate Connor Fitzpatrick.
The plant’s root microbiome is the unique community of micro-organisms living in and on plant roots. Similar to the gut microbiome in animal species, the root microbiome is the interface between a plant and the world. The root microbiome is responsible for important functions such as nutrient uptake and signals important to plant development.
Fitzpatrick’s study is published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His exploration of the role of the root microbiome in plant health could eventually assist farmers to grow crops under drought-ridden conditions.
For the study, Fitzpatrick grew 30 species of plants found in the Greater Toronto Area from seed in identical soil mixtures in a laboratory setting. These included familiar plants like 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.