New research from the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) demonstrates that exposing sorghum plants to drought conditions can shift the balance between specific types of microorganisms found within their root systems. The study, published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that drought plays a role in restructuring the development of the early root microbiome, a finding that could help scientists develop crops that are more resistant to climate change.
John Taylor along with PMB faculty members Devin Coleman-Derr and Peggy Lemaux conducted the research at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center on sorghum, a cereal crop known for its drought tolerance.The discovery of this drought-induced microbiome enrichment of specific bacteria could offer a potential pathway for manipulating plant microbiomes in crops that are less drought-tolerant than sorghum.
The paper is the first research published from a $12.3 million Department of Energy Biological and Environmental Research-funded project, which aims to develop an in-depth understanding of drought tolerance in field-grown sorghum. The project is a collaboration between PMB scientists Coleman-Derr, Lemaux, Taylor, and John Vogel, as well as Elizabeth Purdom from UC Berkeley’s Department of Statistics, Axel Visel and Ronan O’Malley from the Joint Genome Institute, ANR Research Station directors Jeff Dahlberg and Robert Hutmacher, and Christer Jansson, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.