From microbes to microbiomes: Applications for plant health and sustainable agriculture

Gwyn A. Beattie, Kirsty L. Bayliss, Daniel A. Jacobson, Richard Broglie, Marleny Burkett-Cadena, Angela Sessitsch, Prasanna Kankanala, Joshua Stein, Kellye Eversole, and Ann Lichens-Park


Published Online: 22 May 2024


Plant-microbe interaction research has had a transformative trajectory, from individual microbial isolate studies to comprehensive analyses of plant microbiomes within the broader phytobiome framework. Acknowledging the indispensable role of plant microbiomes in shaping plant health, agriculture, and ecosystem resilience, we underscore the urgent need for sustainable crop production strategies in the face of contemporary challenges. We discuss how the synergies between advancements in ‘omics technologies and artificial intelligence can help advance the profound potential of plant microbiomes. Furthermore, we propose a multifaceted approach encompassing translational considerations, transdisciplinary research initiatives, public-private partnerships, regulatory policy development, and pragmatic expectations for the practical application of plant microbiome knowledge across diverse agricultural landscapes. We advocate for strategic collaboration and intentional transdisciplinary efforts to unlock the benefits offered by plant microbiomes and address pressing global issues in food security. By emphasizing a nuanced understanding of plant microbiome complexities and fostering realistic expectations, we encourage the scientific community to navigate the transformative journey from discoveries in the laboratory to field applications. As companies specializing in agricultural microbes and microbiomes undergo shifts, we highlight the necessity of understanding how to approach sustainable agriculture with site-specific management solutions. While cautioning against over-promising, we underscore the excitement of exploring the many impacts of microbiome-plant interactions. We emphasize the importance of collaborative endeavors with societal partners to accelerate our collective capacity to harness the diverse and yet-to-be-discovered beneficial activities of plant microbiomes.