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Targeted Microbiome Design for Plant Health

Gabriele Berg: TU Graz, Environmental Biotechnology

<div>The microbiome of plants plays a crucial role in plant health. Although this is known for a long time, novel tools such as multi-omics provided novel insights into this function and their key players. Despite this progress in understanding, “a healthy microbiome” is difficult to define. The plant microbiota harbor species-specific microbial diversity consisting of bacterial, archaeal, and diverse eukaryotic species. Breeding activities resulted even in a cultivar-specific component; this will be shown for a selection of lettuce, pumpkin, oilseed rape and sugar beet cultivars. Interestingly, the breeding-driven microbiome shift is correlated with plant traits, e.g. resistance against pathogens. Microbial diversity was identified as a key factor in preventing diseases and one indication for a healthy microbiome. Therefore, it can be implemented as a biomarker in plant protection strategies. However, a critical analysis revealed that agriculture causes long-lasting anthropogenic environmental impacts and decreases biodiversity drastically. Therefore, targeted microbiome design should be used to replace the missing biodiversity, e.g. by adding key players from wild types or natural relatives. Moreover, combined breeding and biocontrol strategies maintaining diversity and ecosystem health are required. The analysis of plant microbiome data brought about a paradigm shift in our understanding of its role in health and disease and has substantial consequences for microbiome design and human health issues.</div>

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