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Journal of Experimental Botany
Vol. 56, No. 417, 2005; Pages:

Biological costs and benefits to plant–microbe interactions in the rhizosphere

J. A. W. Morgan, G. D. Bending and P. J. White*

Warwick HRI, University of Warwick, Wellesbourne, Warwick CV35 9EF, UK.


This review looks briefly at plants and their rhizosphere microbes, the chemical communications that exist, and the biological processes they sustain. Primarily it is the loss of carbon compounds from roots that drives the development of enhanced microbial populations in the rhizosphere when compared with the bulk soil, or that sustains specific mycorrhizal or legume associations. The benefits to the plant from this carbon loss are discussed. Overall the general rhizosphere effect could help the plant by maintaining the recycling of nutrients, through the production of hormones, helping to provide resistance to microbial diseases and to aid tolerance to toxic compounds. When plants lack essential mineral elements such as P or N, symbiotic relationships can be beneficial and promote plant growth. However, this benefit may be lost in wellfertilized (agricultural) soils where nutrients are readily available to plants and symbionts reduce growth. Since these rhizosphere associations are commonplace and offer key benefits to plants, these interactions would appear to be essential to their overall success.

Keywords: Micro-organisms, mycorrhiza, nodulation, nutrition, phosphate, rhizosphere, pathogens.

Corresponding author: Phone: xxxxxxxxx Fax: xxxxxxxxxxx

E-mail: philip-j.white@warwick.ac.uk


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