“We report how a single gene mutation from a functional plant mutant influences the surrounding community of soil organisms, showing that genes are not only important for intrinsic plant physiology but also for the interactions with the surrounding community of organisms as well.”1

Several growers have been reporting that different weed species are dominant the following growing season on soil where GM crops are planted, compared to soil with that same crop that is not GM.

Other growers have observed that disease expression is much higher following a GM crop than a non GM crop.

We understand that both of these changes can be produced by shifts in the soil biome. As biological populations shift, different weed species become dominant, and diseases can be either suppressed or enhanced.

A single gene change in a plant can produce a changed phenolic compound and sugar profile in plant sap and root exudates. This change in root exudates results in a changed microbiome in the rhizosphere.

A single gene change in a plant can produce a changed microbiome in the soil. What might this mean for breeding and GE?

Of course, few GE crops being used today only contain a single altered gene. Usually a number of genes are added or altered, along with a number of non-target changes that are also produced.

How might the soil microbiome differ between GE and non GE crops, and how does this influence the development of the soil microbiome?

How can we consider this characteristic to intentionally breed crops and select cover crops which shift the microbiome in a disease suppressive direction?

Is it possible that when we select for disease resistant crops the disease resistance mechanisms are largely or partially a result of a changed microbiome?

Can we deliberately breed crops  to produce a disease suppressive microbiome, as occurred accidentally with the selection of crown-rust resistant oats?

  1. Badri, D. V. et al. An ABC transporter mutation alters root exudation of phytochemicals that provoke an overhaul of natural soil microbiota. Plant Physiol. 151, 2006–2017 (2009).