About this Research Topic
Most of the biodiversity in agricultural systems resides in the soil, where microbial communities play a central role in virtually every biogeochemical cycle and interact with other soil organisms and plants shaping the crop's performance. To advance our understanding beyond the simplified view of individual plant-microbe or soil-plant interactions and the interactions with all factors involved (pedo-climatic, crop- or farming-related), we should consider plants (roots), soil and soil biota (micro-, meso- and macro-organisms) as a unique “meta-organism” able to mediate and influence the various relations that contribute to plant development, health and productivity in the complex agro-ecosystem.
A complex set of data will be necessary to assess and possibly modulate the mutual impacts among plants' functions, endophytic and soil rhizospheric microbiome, introduced bio-inocula (i.e. biofertilizers and biopesticides), bio-effectors, native soil functions and above and below-ground biodiversity. Furthermore, we still do not have enough data to ascertain whether biodiversity per se is sufficient for improving crop productivity over varying time scales and to overcome replant problems in crop systems. Based on the new knowledge, models, tools, and strategies can be delivered to promote practical applications of novel, more efficient plant beneficial bioproducts.
The aim of this Research Topic is to improve the knowledge on the whole set of processes and phenomena that are affecting the efficacy of biocontrol and biofertilization practices in crop systems. These should include: the production and formulation of plant beneficial bioproducts, the analysis of the impact deriving from the interactions between the crop, the surrounding plants (e.g. cover crops or weeds), the soil physical-chemical characteristics, the micro-, meso- and macro-organisms biodiversity below and above the ground, and the agricultural practices (e.g. crop rotation, mixed cropping systems, soil management).
Therefore, the mechanisms of interaction between roots, crop residues, inoculated microorganisms, and the different microbial communities need to be better understood. Special attention should be paid to dynamics of microbiome-driven changes of the plant metabolism and plasticity in response to introduced bio-inocula under biotic and abiotic stress conditions. New evidence on the relationship of biodiversity per se with crop development and productivity in different cropping systems is also urgently needed.
The effects of agronomical management strategies and practices on plant-associated microbiome (and associated mechanism) in relation to resource use efficiency and plant health need clarification and new soil fertility indexes. Furthermore, the relevance of researches on the development of the legal framework for the use of microbial-based fertilizers and pesticides is considered useful to be highlighted, to further support the transition toward more sustainable agriculture.
For this Research Topic, we encourage submissions of Original Research and Review articles responding to the following challenges:
• How biodiversity is associated with crop productivity and replant problems?
• Are mixed microbial products better than single strain products in terms of their effects and stability?
• How to formulate microbial products to improve their effects and persistence under natural environment?
• How do the interactions between plant roots, crop residues, soil and microbiomes impact on the efficacy of introduced bio-inocula?
• How do agronomic (e.g. soil management, crop rotation, mixed crop systems) practices impact on plant-associated microbiome and efficacy of introduced bio-inocula?
• Could we use our knowledge on plant-associated microbiome to improve the functions of introduced bio-inocula?
• Can we explain and model the whole network of interactions in and around plants before and after microbial interventions?
• Can we develop better methodological approaches to assess soil quality in terms of crop productivity to validate and guide the use of bio-inocula?
• Legal aspects to be addressed to support the application of bioproducts
Keywords: plant-associated microbiome, biocontrol, biofertilization, soil, agronomic strategies
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