An old ad stated, “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible,” but it’s only more recently that we’ve begun to understand the importance of semiochemicals – chemicals produced for communication. Leach et al. pull together insights from chemical ecologists, soil scientists, plant pathologists and entomologists in this excellent review of the phytobiome (all the living organisms in and around a plant) and the communication within it. They start by estimating the number and diversity of organisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi, arthropods, nematodes, protists and earthworms) that live together in the phytobiome, and then what we understand about their chemical signals. The authors conclude, “The nascent field of phytobiomes research is an attempt to strengthen the connections between ecological and agricultural bodies of knowledge for better translation to crop and managed ecosystems”, and direct readers to the Phytobiome Roadmap. Cell 10.1016/j.cell.2017.04.025
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