Plant-Microbes for Improved Plant Growth and Environmental Sustainability
• Nitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for plant growth. But since chemical fertilizers are produced using fossil fuels, excess N fertilizer in soils can be converted by soil microbes to nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, and fertilizers in agricultural run-off can disrupt aquatic ecosystems, a more environmentally-sustainable way of improving crop growth is needed.
• Plants growing in natural, nutrient-limited conditions may rely more on symbiosis, partnerships with microbes, to obtain the nutrients they need for growth.
• My lab studies the pioneering plant species, poplar (Populus) and willow (Salix), that naturally thrive in nutrient-limited areas
• We have isolated and studied many different bacteria and yeast from within these wild-grown trees and studied their symbiotic properties
• These microbes improve the growth of many other plants such as grasses, corn, rice, Douglas-fir trees, bell peppers, tomatoes, and more, with reduced requirements for fertilizer and water. The ability to recruit and support beneficial microbes may have been lost in modern agricultural cultivars.