Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have discovered that maize crops emit chemical signals which attract growth-promoting microbes to live amongst their roots. This is the first chemical signal that has been shown to attract beneficial bacteria to the maize root environment.
The study was led by Dr Andy Neal of Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and Dr Jurriaan Ton of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. By deepening our understanding of how cereals interact with microorganisms in the soil their research aims to contribute to ongoing efforts to increase cereal yields sustainably to feed a growing world population.
This research could be particularly useful in the fight against soil-borne pests and diseases. By breeding plants that are better at recruiting disease suppressing and growth promoting bacteria scientists hope to reduce agricultural reliance on fertilisers and pesticides.