Plant-Soil Interface

Plant-Soil-Microbe Interactions to Improve Soil Sustainability and Crop Yields

Rice rootsMuch of the untapped potential to increase food production with fewer resources lies in the soil underfoot. Soil is the habitat for plant roots where nutrients are cycled, water is stored, the plant is anchored and pollutants are filtered from the wider environment.

Years of neglect of soil has produced degraded land in many regions of the world, which imposes stresses that are exacerbated during climate extremes. Healthy functioning plant-soil-microbe interactions are at the heart of food security. The Alliance is furthering understanding of the plant-soil interface, and working with stakeholders to translate this knowledge into sustainable management for safe and nutritious crop production in temperate and tropical cropping systems.

We benefit from a range of unique plant resources that allow for controlled testing of the benefits of specific crop traits. The Alliance brings together a comprehensive team spanning many facets of plant-soil interactions. Our complementary expertise across the plant and soil sciences links biology, chemistry and physics. General themes of our research include:

  • Producing more from less – optimising resource capture and cycling at the root-soil interface
  • The rhizosphere – understanding and manipulating biological, chemical and physical processes in this thin hot-spot of soil at the surface of plant roots
  • Using plants to improve the environment – ranging from stabilising vulnerable soils, cleaning up contaminants and mitigating greenhouse gases from agriculture
  • Beneficial microbes for plants –symbionts, mutualists and biofertilisers
  • Linking soil management and crop traits to enhance productivity