Roots and rhizosphere ecology

We explore the potential of root traits and the rhizosphere to enhance cycling, acquisition and uptake of soil resources

Efforts to increase crop yields in more diversified systems and using less resources can benefit from a better understanding of 1) how root system adapt to their environment, 2) functional root traits instrumental to maintain nutrient and water acquisition under stress and 3) root traits contribution to ecosystem processes such as nutrient and carbon cycling.  In addition, little is known about root systems of crop wild ancestors, yet, promising targets for future genetic improvement may lie underground as wild ancestors used to grow in nutrient-variable environments with large interspecific competition. We study how root traits drive ecosystem processes and plant adaption to more sustainable systems and take an evolutionary approach to elucidate historical changes in crop morphology, developmental plasticity and yield responsiveness to water and nutrients.

Current Research Activities

  • Elucidate how agroecological practices and grazing shape rhizosphere community and processes (Kelsey Brewer) 
  • Understand plant control of rhizosphere N cycling for adaptation to low input systems (Andrea Leptin)
  • Contribution of soil an rhizosphere microbiomes to crop drought resilience (Alessandra Zuniga) 
  • Belowground niche complementarily of cover crop stands and feedback to soil ecosystem services (Vivian Wauters) 

Past Research Activities

  • Uncover the effects of domestication and breeding on maize and tomato root eco-physiology, rhizosphere processes and resource acquisition strategies (completed: Jennifer Schmidt, Meng Li, Lindsay Dahlen)