Roots, Shoots, And Seeds, A Plant-Microbe Interaction Triptych: From Sea to Summit



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Plants interact with microorganisms on and within their roots, leaves and seeds, all of which can change the plant’s growth. These interactions have the potential to scale up and affect a plant’s role in a community and ecosystem. Traditionally, research has focused on the effects of microbes associated with specific plant parts, not considering the interactions between plant parts as the plant parts do in nature. We addressed this gap in research by evaluating the relative importance of each plant-part associated microbiome individually and in unison for plant growth and function. Using a combination of field surveys and greenhouse studies we looked at the diversity and effect of different microbiomes across a landscape. In an alpine environment we measured distribution and effect of seed microbes for multiple plant species. We also measured how soil microbes derived from communities varying in plant composition affected next generation plant species growth. We found seed microbes varied between species but not location and had no effect on germination. However, soil microbes from different origins affected plant growth differently, with soils that originated from low density and low richness plots demonstrating negative plant-soil feedback. Next, we tested the independent and interactive effects of three plant microbiomes on prairie plants varying in successional rank. We determined the combination of multiple microbiomes affected plant growth non-linearly and that the combination of all three microbiomes generated the best predictive model for plant successional rank. Then we tested the effects of soil and foliar microbes in combination on a community stabilizing mechanism, plant-soil feedback. We found that only with the addition of the foliar microbes, plant-soil feedback became significant, indicating soil microbes alone may not be sufficient for understanding community shaping processes. Lastly, we tested the effects of combining different sources of soil microbial inoculum to understand implications on restoration metrics in Gulf Coast dunes. We found that using multiple sources of microbial inoculum increased plant growth for one grass species, increased the abundance of soil stabilizing microbes, and promoted plant community evenness. Integrating multiple microbiomes in plants may better reflect each of their roles in nature.



Plant-microbe interactions, Plant-soil feedback, Fungi, Dunes, Prairie, Alpine, Restoration


Portions of this document appear in: Luecke, Noah C., Austin J. Mejia, and Kerri M. Crawford. "Native soil amendments combined with commercial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increase biomass of Panicum amarum." Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (2021): 17865.