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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Isolation and Analysis of Microbial Communities in Soil, Rhizosphere, and Roots in Perennial Grass Experiments

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Plant and soil microbiome studies are becoming increasingly important for understanding the roles microorganisms play in agricultural productivity. The purpose of this manuscript is to provide detail on how to rapidly sample soil, rhizosphere, and endosphere of replicated field trials and analyze changes that may occur in the microbial communities due to sample type, treatment, and plant genotype. The experiment used to demonstrate these methods consists of replicated field plots containing two, pure, warm-season grasses (Panicum virgatum and Andropogon gerardii) and a low-diversity grass mixture (A. gerardii, Sorghastrum nutans, and Bouteloua curtipendula). Briefly, plants are excavated, a variety of roots are cut and placed in phosphate buffer, and then shaken to collect the rhizosphere. Roots are brought to the laboratory on ice and surface sterilized with bleach and ethanol (EtOH). The rhizosphere is filtered and concentrated by centrifugation. Excavated soil from around the root ball is placed into plastic bags and brought to the lab where a small amount of soil is taken for DNA extractions. DNA is extracted from roots, soil, and rhizosphere and then amplified with primers for the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Amplicons are sequenced, then analyzed with open access bioinformatics tools. These methods allow researchers to test how the microbial community diversity and composition varies due to sample type, treatment, and plant genotype. Using these methods along with statistical models, the representative results demonstrate there are significant differences in microbial communities of roots, rhizosphere, and soil. Methods presented here provide a complete set of steps for how to collect field samples, isolate, extract, quantify, amplify, and sequence DNA, and analyze microbial community diversity and composition in replicated field trials.

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