A2: How Plant Microbes Could Help Us

How plant microbes could feed the world and save endangered species

Source: Science News

Date of Article: September 6, 2018




This article is about microbiome based farming and conservation on Earth, an area of  increasing importance as the human population continues to grow. While some microorganisms could help plant growth substantially, some plants are under strong threats if exposed. The article examines some cases of plants that benefit from growing in an area of microbial growth and exposure compared to those that are later exposed to supposedly beneficial microbes.


In class, we’ve discussed the plague quite a bit and how people can develop a sort of immunity to it after recovering from it. The presence of microbial communities can offer a similar type of protection like an immune system. While certain bacteria can harm plant growth, others can save it. We’ve seen in class just how harmful exposure to the wrong types of microbes can be, and this is mentioned in the article I have included. We don’t want to accidentally infect our crops with something that’s is going to harm plants and animals. Like the plague, it is important to understand the relationship between various microorganisms and the other organisms they can come into contact with in their environments.


I had never considered the importance of microbial communities in sustainable crop growth or in aiding the preservation of threatened species. I found it interesting that fungi and bacteria in an area can have such a profound impact on plant communities just depending on the location of the plant. I would have assumed that all plants of the same species would have similar reactions to similar microorganisms and that they would not have been able to inherit such important survival protections directly from their parents. The article seems to me to be scientifically accurate. There are a lot of questions and explanations of observations, but not many planned solutions or strong claims made. The article also uses information from different setting, presenting scenarios related to both agriculture and plant conservation. Experiments and observations are explained in a clear way that conveys the scientific methods used but does not use too much jargon and specific terminology that a person who isn’t a scientist wouldn’t be able to understand it. Overall, I found the article really interesting and relevant to our future and planning in the United States. It appeals to both an aesthetic/outdoors reader and a business minded one. I think the most important part about the article though is that it clearly communicates that this area of science needs more studying and that we haven’t been able to clearly identify micro biomes that are beneficial and harmful to specific plants yet.


Is there a specific microbial component in the arctic regions of Alaska that protect plants from local conditions but would be lethal or harmful to plants in lower regions? How might these microbial communities affect those plants which humans also consume (such as a blueberry)?