EDITORIAL

Next-Generation Communication

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Science  08 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5928, pp. 691
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174404

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Summary

In the past decade, there have been major advances in our understanding of the molecular interplay between plants and various classes of microbial pathogens (bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, viruses, and nematodes) and microbial symbionts (rhizobia or mycorrhizal fungi). These fundamental insights, reviewed in a special section in this issue (p. 741), provide a conceptual framework for rational human intervention through the breeding or engineering of crops for durable and broad-spectrum disease resistance. However, such engineered plants will eventually be deployed into soils of varying geochemistry that harbor a staggering diversity of microbes. Many of these microbes can associate intimately with crops or other plants in natural habitats. A deeper understanding of plant-associated microbial communities is likely to offer exciting opportunities for controlling plant growth and pathogen burden in sustainable agricultural settings over the next two decades.