Ruth Schmidt

INRS - Institut Armand Frappier
How microbial volatiles can help plants to withstand drought

Climate change resulting in higher temperatures leads to enormous losses in yields for major crops, including wheat. A promising and sustainable approach to improve wheat yields under suboptimal conditions stems from volatiles organic compounds (VOCs) producing soil microbes. I have recently shown that VOCs act as a common chemical language between microbes to communicate with each other and alter each other’s behavior. For example, the beneficial bacterium Serratia plymuthica PRI-2C induced its motility and produced a unique terpene, called Sodorifen, when exposed to VOCs from the fungal plant pathogen Fusarium culmorum. Further, Sodorifen producing S. plymuthica PRI-2C was able to support the health of maize when under pathogen attack. Similarly, terpenes are likely to play important roles in driving the plants resistance to drought. The next step is to test this hypothesis on the plant holobiont, considering the plant and its microbial community. For this, I am using a Rhizotron setup to study microbial and plant genes linked to VOC emission along a spatial and temporal resolution. This experiment will show which genes and VOCs are the main players in making plants more resistant to drought and will set the basis for application of VOCs to the field via microbial engineering strategies.