Seed microbiomes outweigh soil microbes in colonizing plants

According to a recent study, microbes from the seeds have much-staying power rather than microbes from the soil in colonizing plants.


Image Credit: Nik Merkulov/

Ever since I started working on plant microbiomes, I’ve been wondering about their origins. Are they coming from the seeds and transmitted somehow by the mother plant or are they picked up from the environment?

Étienne Yergeau, Plant Pathologist, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique

Yergeau and coworkers investigated these questions through soybeans. The soybean seeds were grown under controlled conditions. The microbes were removed selectively from the seeds or the soil, and the plant was later allowed to grow.

We found that when the seed microorganisms were not removed, they had precedence over the soil microorganisms to colonize all the plant parts, including the roots and the soil associated to the roots. It is only when we removed the seed microorganisms that the soil microorganisms could colonize the plant, and only the roots and the soil associated to the roots.”

Étienne Yergeau, Plant Pathologist, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique

Earlier research works investigated the origin of the plant microbiome by comparing the microbes identified on and in the plant to the microbes in soil and seeds. However, these studies did not experimentally remove one or the other microbes.

Our ultimate goal is to find a way to modify the microbiomes of crops to increase yields, quality, and resistance to stresses and thereby reduce chemical inputs. Our research shows that the seed should be the primary target for such efforts. If we modify the seed microbiome, there is a good chance we will be able to generate plants with tailor-made beneficial microbiomes and head toward a more sustainable agriculture.”

Étienne Yergeau, Plant Pathologist, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique

Journal reference:

Moroenyane, I., et al. (2021) Soybean Microbiome Recovery after Disruption is Modulated by the Seed and Not the Soil Microbiome. Phytobiomes Journal.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
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