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. Often seen in rocky riparian zones such as the one pictured at the top of this website, poplar seedlings establish on sites where few other plant species can grow.
• 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.