Understanding How Breeding Affects the Microbes in Perennial Cereal Seeds

Greg Howard
18th June, 2024

Understanding How Breeding Affects the Microbes in Perennial Cereal Seeds

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study from Graz University of Technology focused on the seed microbiome of Intermediate wheatgrass, a recently domesticated perennial grain crop
  • Breeding practices significantly alter the composition of seed endophytes, which are crucial for plant health and productivity
  • Beneficial microorganisms present in wild relatives are often lost during the breeding process, impacting plant resilience and health
The study of plant microbiomes has garnered significant attention due to its potential to improve crop health and productivity. Recent research from Graz University of Technology has delved into the indigenous seed microbiome of Intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium L.), a recently domesticated perennial grain crop, to understand how breeding practices impact the composition of seed endophytes and how these microorganisms can enhance crop performance[1]. Seed endophytes are microorganisms that live within plant seeds and can significantly affect plant health and fitness. These microorganisms can be inherited and passed on to subsequent plant generations, potentially influencing the plant's growth, development, and resilience to environmental stress[2]. However, the impact of breeding on the composition of these seed endophytes remains less understood. The study employed a multiphasic approach, combining amplicon and strain libraries with molecular and physiological assays, to analyze the seed microbiome of Intermediate wheatgrass. Amplicon libraries help in identifying the microbial communities present in the seeds by amplifying specific DNA regions, while strain libraries involve isolating and culturing individual microbial strains. Molecular assays provide insights into the genetic makeup of these microorganisms, and physiological assays help understand their functional roles. One of the key findings of the study is that breeding practices can significantly alter the composition of seed endophytes. This is crucial because the seed microbiome constitutes a primary inoculum for plants, influencing their health and productivity[2]. The researchers found that certain beneficial microorganisms, which are present in the wild relatives of domesticated plants, are often lost during the breeding process[3]. This loss can negatively impact the plant's ability to recruit beneficial microorganisms, which are essential for environmental stress resilience and overall plant health. The study also highlights the importance of understanding the core and flexible fractions of the seed microbiome. Core taxa are those microorganisms consistently found across different plant species and geographical locations, while flexible taxa vary depending on environmental factors[2]. By identifying these core and flexible fractions, researchers can better understand the roles these microorganisms play in plant health and how they can be manipulated to improve crop performance. Additionally, the influence of soil microbiomes on plant microbiome assembly was considered. Previous studies have shown that soil microbial communities can significantly impact the bacterial community composition of seedlings, with soil-derived bacteria often playing a dominant role[4]. However, the contributions of seed-derived microorganisms can also be substantial, depending on the soil bacterial community composition. This interplay between soil and seed microbiomes is crucial for predicting and manipulating plant microbiomes to enhance crop health. The findings from Graz University of Technology provide valuable insights into how breeding practices impact seed endophytes and how these microorganisms can be harnessed to improve crop performance. By understanding the ecology and evolution of plant microbiomes, researchers can develop strategies to reinstate or enrich beneficial microorganisms lost during domestication[5]. This could lead to more sustainable agricultural practices and improved plant resilience in the face of climate change. In summary, the study underscores the importance of considering the seed microbiome in plant breeding programs. By integrating knowledge from previous research on plant-microbiome interactions and the influence of soil microbiomes, the study offers a comprehensive understanding of how to harness beneficial microorganisms to enhance crop performance. This approach holds promise for achieving more sustainable agriculture and addressing the challenges posed by a changing climate.

AgricultureBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Determining the footprint of breeding in the seed microbiome of a perennial cereal

Published 17th June, 2024


Related Studies

2) Seed microbiota revealed by a large-scale meta-analysis including 50 plant species.


3) Microbe-assisted crop improvement: a sustainable weapon to restore holobiont functionality and resilience.


4) Variable influences of soil and seed-associated bacterial communities on the assembly of seedling microbiomes.


5) Ecology and Evolution of Plant Microbiomes.


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