Microbes respond differently in hybrid vs. inbred corn roots – could impact crop genetic engineering

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In Nebraska, University of Nebraska researchers showed that a microbial community’s response can depend on the species of crop – or genetic profile of the species – that co-inhabits its soil. The team found that microbial communities near hybrid vs. inbred corn responded differently to elevated ozone levels and the diversity of microbe populations living on soybean roots changed when exposed to more carbon dioxide.

The study suggested that differences in microbe-feeding compounds released by hybrid vs. inbred corn roots – or corn vs. soybeans – may explain why their microbial communities responded differently. In this way, the effects of rising atmospheric gas levels may trickle down from plants to the microbes in and around roots. That knowledge could inform genetic engineering of crops to produce more compounds that promote beneficial microbes, ultimately boosting yields amid changing climates. The researchers plan to further investigate differences among the compounds released by different varieties of corn.