Opinion. A return to the wild: Root exudates and food security (Trends Plant Sci)

My dog is a fantastic companion, but it’s obvious he could never fend for himself; domestication has eliminated his ancestral survival skills. Likewise, most crop plants thrive under human care, but have lost many of the traits that would help them survive in harsh conditions. Preece and Peñuelas write a compelling article pointing out that re-introducing some of these survival trait to crops could make farming more sustainable. They observe that selection for high yields has generally decreased the amount of material exuded into soil by roots, but these root exudates enable plants to recruit symbionts (allowing for less fertilizer use) and deter pathogens (allowing for less pesticide use).  Challenges lie in the difficulty in reliably quantifying root exudates, and their inherent variability. (Summary by Mary Williams) Trends Plant Sci. 10.1016/j.tplants.2019.09.010