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Do plants have a microbiome?


Our bodies are home to trillions of invisible microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and miniscule animals. These live on our skin, in our mouths, even within our cells, where they may contribute in numerous ways to our health and wellness. For example in our gut, bacteria help to break down potential toxic food compounds, and synthesize vitamins that we need.

"This is the microbiome," explains Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie fellow Tania Galindo from ETH-Zurich in Switzerland. She adds that she has just arrived from a conference in Vienna, "where speakers often pointed out that there are more microbial cells in our body than human cells."

But humans are not unique in being an ecosystem unto themselves. Since the very beginning of agriculture, farmers have understood that disease could spread from leaves or fruits of one plant to others. Evidently, some infectious force has been at play, impacting their harvests and livelihoods.

To understand more about plant microbiomes, scientists employed the same methods used in human clinical microbiology, isolating and characterizing infectious organisms to identify and diagnose diseases affecting plants.

How the plant microbiome can boost agriculture

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