Microbiome

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Science  07 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6248, pp. 599-600
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6248.599-e

Wild legumes, like this red clover, need mycorrhizal fungi to help their Nitrogen fixing symbionts during growth

PHOTO: FLPA/COLIN MARSHALL/FLPA/CORBIS

Symbiotic microorganisms, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria and phosphorus-transferring fungi (mycorrhizae), are vital for plant growth in wild systems. The symbionts may scavenge rare nutrients for plants, but how do they interact? Van der Heijden et al. systematically simulated the plant-symbiont communities found in sand dunes in experimental microcosms kept free of contaminating organisms. For wild legume (peas, beans, and their relatives) seedlings, hosting nitrogen-fixing bacteria alone was not enough to guarantee growth; mycorrhizal fungi supplying phosphorous had to be present too. This synergism becomes apparent only when plants live on a nutritional edge.

ISME 10.1038/ismej.2015.120 (2015).

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