Plant Root Exudate Changes With Drought to Encourage Soil Microbes to Provide More Nutrients

There are all kinds of interactions between plants and the soils they grow in, and little by little we're understanding more about what's going on. Take root exudate for example. That's the cocktail of carbohydrates - sugars, amino acids and organic acids - that result from photosynthesis and end up in the plant's roots and the soils surrounding them. Root exudate is food for microbes, and the plant feeds the microbes in exchange for the nutrients they bring to the plant. It was considered a passive process. But now, researchers have discovered that the plants can actually manipulate the recipe of the carbohydrate cocktail to promote more micro-organism nutrient release and promote their own growth.   We know that plants can increase microbial activity by increasing the volume of root exudate. For example, when a plant is grazed, it produces more exudate, which increases microbial activity. This in turn releases more nutrients and thus the plant promotes its own regrowth. But other stressors, like drought for example, can reduce the amount of exudate a plant produces. In that case, how does it manage to feed itself? By changing the composition of the cocktail. When researchers tested post-drought exudate from two plants common to managed hay meadows, they found that though there was less

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