To make the Research Triangle a global hub for plant-related innovation, North Carolina State University advances in its quest. North Carolina State University recently launched a unique consortium to explore the soil microbiome. Soil microbiome are largely unknown world of microscopic organisms living in soil along plant roots.
The Plant Soil Microbial Community Consortium (PSMCC) is the new partnership, brings the university’s Center for Integrated Fungal Research (CIFR) together with stakeholders from industries and organizations vested in improving agricultural production.
The goal of consortium is to identify biological indicators of soil health and to determine how to use naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms to modify soil in ways that improve plant health and increase crop yields.
The NC State consortium brings CIFR’s broad knowledge and expertise in bioinformatics, climatology, fungal and evolutionary biology, ecology, mathematics, microbiology, and plant and soil sciences to better understand the interaction of soil microbial communities with plants, says Dr. Marc Cubeta, CIFR’s associate director and plant pathology professor.
While some organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, insects and nematodes can cause crop damage, the majority of microbes are neutral or even beneficial to plants. For example, mycorrhizal fungi are associated with the roots of 80 percent of all plant species and critical for providing them with nitrogen, phosphorus and water.
Scientists believe beneficial relationships between plants and microorganisms will provide clues that can lead to agricultural innovations by reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.