Research Topic

The Growth-Defense Trade-Off Paradigm in the Field: How to Design Sustainable Crop Systems?

About this Research Topic

The growth-defense trade-off has central importance for crop productivity and sustainability. A balance between growth and development, nutrient uptake, and defense against biotic and abiotic stresses must be achieved to ensure a maximum yield. Molecular interactions between plants and their environment, including the plant and soil microbiome, play a crucial role in the growth-defense balance. However, little is known about the molecular, biochemical, and physiological processes involved in the trade-off between growth and defense of both model and crop plants. In addition, the ongoing climate warming is causing additional stresses and affecting sustainable food production. The application of technical advances, guided by recent discoveries in model plants, to food production can enable a deeper understanding of growth-defense trade-offs in the field. Only by fine-tuning growth-defense will it be possible to develop innovative solutions to manipulate plant and environment in favor of both growth and defense to support sustainable agriculture under global warming.

Plants are sessile organisms that need to promptly adapt to their constantly changing environment. Among the environmental challenges, plants need to defend themselves against both beneficial and pathogenic microbes. Plant interactions with microbes trigger innate immune responses, which require energy generated by the plant through photosynthesis. This reduces the availability of photoassimilates for plant growth and development, eventually reducing crop yield and increasing food scarcity worldwide. The current model of plant growth-defense trade-offs is based on the existence of shared signaling components that can shift the balance between growth and defense, commonly leading to a negative correlation between them. Whether a growth-defense trade-off can be mitigated depends on its underlying mechanism, and frequently also depends on the environment. For instance, soluble sugars and nutrients are essential for plant growth but also impact fungal and bacterial communities, favoring or inhibiting pathogen growth both in the rhizosphere and phyllosphere. Plant hormones can similarly promote plant growth and fertility while benefiting pathogen colonization. From an ecological point of view, an increase in plant biomass and biodiversity has been shown to decrease fungal infection. Therefore, growth–defense trade-offs have important ecological, agricultural, and economic consequences. The goal of this Research Topic is to encompass studies that develop a broad and comprehensive view of the trade-off between plant productivity and tolerance to environmental constraints.

The Research Topic aims to bring the growth-defense trade-offs, mostly studied in plant model systems, to the mainstream research in sustainable food systems. Additionally, it seeks to provide a bridge between results obtained from in silico studies, molecular biology, ecological, microbial, and crop research. The Research Topic welcome Reviews, Original Research, and Method articles that address recent advances in the study of growth-defense trade-off in crops. Within this main topic, specific themes include:

• Evolutionary and comparative analyzes between model organisms and important food sources
• Crop management through the use of bio-control agents or plant-growth-promoting bacteria
• Studies on plant-plant interactions, plant-soil microbiome interaction
• Genome editing approaches to increase crop growth and/or tolerance to environmental stress
• Ecophysiology studies on growth vs. defense trade-offs
Overall, all papers that look at understanding and manipulating plant growth-defense trade-offs to promote food security in an environmentally sustainable manner will be considered.

Topic editor Paula R Oblessuc is employed by InPP CoLab. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic subject.


Keywords: Growth, defense, trade-off, stress, nutrition, signaling, microbiome


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The growth-defense trade-off has central importance for crop productivity and sustainability. A balance between growth and development, nutrient uptake, and defense against biotic and abiotic stresses must be achieved to ensure a maximum yield. Molecular interactions between plants and their environment, including the plant and soil microbiome, play a crucial role in the growth-defense balance. However, little is known about the molecular, biochemical, and physiological processes involved in the trade-off between growth and defense of both model and crop plants. In addition, the ongoing climate warming is causing additional stresses and affecting sustainable food production. The application of technical advances, guided by recent discoveries in model plants, to food production can enable a deeper understanding of growth-defense trade-offs in the field. Only by fine-tuning growth-defense will it be possible to develop innovative solutions to manipulate plant and environment in favor of both growth and defense to support sustainable agriculture under global warming.

Plants are sessile organisms that need to promptly adapt to their constantly changing environment. Among the environmental challenges, plants need to defend themselves against both beneficial and pathogenic microbes. Plant interactions with microbes trigger innate immune responses, which require energy generated by the plant through photosynthesis. This reduces the availability of photoassimilates for plant growth and development, eventually reducing crop yield and increasing food scarcity worldwide. The current model of plant growth-defense trade-offs is based on the existence of shared signaling components that can shift the balance between growth and defense, commonly leading to a negative correlation between them. Whether a growth-defense trade-off can be mitigated depends on its underlying mechanism, and frequently also depends on the environment. For instance, soluble sugars and nutrients are essential for plant growth but also impact fungal and bacterial communities, favoring or inhibiting pathogen growth both in the rhizosphere and phyllosphere. Plant hormones can similarly promote plant growth and fertility while benefiting pathogen colonization. From an ecological point of view, an increase in plant biomass and biodiversity has been shown to decrease fungal infection. Therefore, growth–defense trade-offs have important ecological, agricultural, and economic consequences. The goal of this Research Topic is to encompass studies that develop a broad and comprehensive view of the trade-off between plant productivity and tolerance to environmental constraints.

The Research Topic aims to bring the growth-defense trade-offs, mostly studied in plant model systems, to the mainstream research in sustainable food systems. Additionally, it seeks to provide a bridge between results obtained from in silico studies, molecular biology, ecological, microbial, and crop research. The Research Topic welcome Reviews, Original Research, and Method articles that address recent advances in the study of growth-defense trade-off in crops. Within this main topic, specific themes include:

• Evolutionary and comparative analyzes between model organisms and important food sources
• Crop management through the use of bio-control agents or plant-growth-promoting bacteria
• Studies on plant-plant interactions, plant-soil microbiome interaction
• Genome editing approaches to increase crop growth and/or tolerance to environmental stress
• Ecophysiology studies on growth vs. defense trade-offs
Overall, all papers that look at understanding and manipulating plant growth-defense trade-offs to promote food security in an environmentally sustainable manner will be considered.

Topic editor Paula R Oblessuc is employed by InPP CoLab. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic subject.


Keywords: Growth, defense, trade-off, stress, nutrition, signaling, microbiome


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

21 May 2021 Abstract
21 September 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

21 May 2021 Abstract
21 September 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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