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By September 13, 2018 Read More →

Using the Microbiome to Fight Phragmites

Scientists have long known that some plants develop symbiotic relationships with fungi and bacteria, cultivating them in the surrounding soil or in specialized structures in their tissues. For example, soybeans and other legumes grow bacteria called rhizobia in nodules on their roots, and the rhizobia help their hosts by transforming nitrogen into a form plants can use.

Invasive plants may reshape the soil microbiome to accelerate their expansion into a non-native environment.

But in just the last decade, researchers have discovered that symbiotic microbes also make their way into ordinary root tissues, and even into the plant’s own cells, sliding into the space between cell membrane and cell walls. In fact, there is a steady stream of microbes cycling between roots and soil, transporting nutrients as they go. This process is called the rhizophagy cycle.

Phragmites Australis By Andreas Trepte [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

In a presentation at the recent Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, researchers presented a strategy using¬†rhizophagy cycle, called ‘endobiome interference’, to combat invasive plants. The researchers identified bacteria and fungi that naturally live inside plants that were beneficial only in the plant species where they were originally found. Introducing these normally beneficial microbes to invasive plants stunts their growth and reduces their ability to survive and thrive.

The research team is currently exploring the application of endobiome interference as a way to reduce the invasive character of invasive and weedy plant species and develop novel control strategies for non-native P. australis, a priority for the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative and managers nationwide.


Some content provided by Inside Science.

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