Microbial support of plant growth under abiotic stress
Plants are colonized by an astounding number of micro-organisms that can have profound effects on the fitness of the plant. In this context, plants can be viewed as super-organisms that rely in part on numerous bacteria by which it is colonized (so-called microbiomes). To facilitate these microbial partners, plants have to invest a substantial amount of photosynthates. Thereby it has the potential to influence the composition and activity of its microbial community. To-date, however, there is little knowledge of the specific impact of microbiomes on plant growth and health. Hence, deciphering the plant microbiome is critical to identify microorganisms for plant growth promotion and protection against all types of stresses.
At the laboratory of Molecular Biology we aim to identify the core microbiomes within the seed (the so-called spermosphere) and on the root (the rhizosphere) that facilitate abiotic stress tolerance to plants. To do so, we make use the model plant Arabidopsis as well as plants that grow specifically in desert regions. Deserts represent an ecological niche in which plants have to cope with severe abiotic stress: mainly drought, salinity and/or low nutrients levels in soil. We hypothesize that spermosphere and/or rhizosphere microbiomes contribute to the abiotic stress tolerance of native desert vegetation. We test whether these yet unknown microbes can improve plant performance under abiotic stress conditions, and whether this can be translated to modern crop species.