Review. The soil-borne identity and microbiome-assisted agriculture: Looking back to the future (Molecular Plant)

Bakker et al. begin their review of plant-soil microbiome concepts with a Lorentz Hiltner quote from 1904: “However, I am convinced that soil bacteriology will finally provide results that are not only of explanatory nature, but will also directly affect and determine agricultural practice… I would like to state from the very first, that… the main goal of our joint effort to make the results applicable in practice, has not been reached so far.” Since the time of this quote, huge technological and informational developments have emerged within plant science and microbiology that are reviewed here. The review cheekily draws on films from the famous Jason Bourne series: “Legacy,” how proper establishment of a rhizosphere can influence the success of future plant generations; “Supremacy,” how a host plant’s genotype can shape the composition of its rhizosphere’s microbial community and, in turn, the structure and fitness of the host plant; and finally, “Identity,” identifying the specific individuals within the rhizosphere’s microbial community, in relation to different host plants. Whilst acknowledging  recent developments, the authors nonetheless assert that: “Asking relevant questions is the main driver of science… It is tempting to perform an analysis just because we can, but techniques alone should not be leading the direction of research questions. […] Lorentz Hiltner would probably be amazed by the progress we have made regarding the detailed information generated over the last century, but many of the questions that he and many scientists after him asked still remain unanswered fully.” As these questions have trenchant stakes within contemporary agriculture’s roles toward global human health and climate change, the authors optimistically conclude that in answering such questions, microbiome-assisted agriculture will flourish in the future. (Summary by Benjamin Jin) Molecular Plant 10.1016/j.molp.2020.09.017