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South Dakota State University

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Heike Bucking

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What is the Microbiome?

Plants are metaorganisms that provide diverse microbial communities with habitats, and many of these plant associated microorganisms fulfill important functions for their plant host.The microbiome of plants for example improves the uptake of essential nutrients, promotes the resistance against abiotic and biotic stresses, and affects the overall plant fitness. Important members of the plant microbiome are arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that colonize the roots of the majority of land plants and played an essential role during plant evolution.

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi protect the plants against environmental stresses (e.g. drought, pathogens, salinity), allow plants to exchange information with their neighbors, provide the plants with access to important nutrients, and act as engineers of plant communities. Despite their significance many of these plant microbe interactions are under-studied, and we are particularly interested to better understand how beneficial microorganisms can be used to maximize plant benefits in difficult and changing environments.

What We Study

We study the microbiome of food and bioenergy crops and its benefits, resource exchange process in beneficial plant-microbe interactions, improved cooperation between plants and their microbial symbionts and application potential and environmental sustainability.