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Using Ancient Traits to Convert Soil Health into Crop Yield: Impact of Selection on Maize Root and Rhizosphere Function.

  • Author(s): Schmidt, Jennifer E;
  • Bowles, Timothy M;
  • Gaudin, Amélie CM
  • et al.

The effect of domestication and modern breeding on aboveground traits in maize (Zea mays) has been well-characterized, but the impact on root systems and the rhizosphere remain unclear. The transition from wild ecosystems to modern agriculture has focused on selecting traits that yielded the largest aboveground production with increasing levels of crop management and nutrient inputs. Root morphology, anatomy, and ecophysiological processes may have been affected by the substantial environmental and genetic shifts associated with this transition. As a result, root and rhizosphere traits that allow more efficient foraging and uptake in lower synthetic input environments might have been lost. The development of modern maize has led to a shift in microbiome community composition, but questions remain as to the dynamics and drivers of this change during maize evolution and its implications for resource acquisition and agroecosystem functioning under different management practices. Better understanding of how domestication and breeding affected root and rhizosphere microbial traits could inform breeding strategies, facilitate the sourcing of favorable alleles, and open new frontiers to improve resource use efficiency through greater integration of root development and ecophysiology with agroecosystem functioning.

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