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Research Project: Enhanced Alfalfa Germplasm and Genomic Resources for Yield, Quality, and Environmental Protection

Location: Plant Science Research

Title: Role of forage crops and soil microbes in promoting soil health and productivity

Author
item Samac, Deborah - Debby
item Klatt, Christian

Submitted to: Forage Focus
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/23/2015
Publication Date: 5/4/2015
Citation: Samac, D.A., Klatt, C.G. 2015. Role of forage crops and soil microbes in promoting soil health and productivity. Forage Focus. May 2015 Page 10-11.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (IYS 2015). The IYS 2015 aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. Although often taken for granted, soils are key to human civilization. Throughout history, civilizations have prospered or declined as a function of the availability and productivity of their soils. Soil is composed of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and living organisms that together support plant life. The number and diversity of organisms in soil is truly astounding. Approximately a quarter of the diversity of life on earth resides in soil. The development of inexpensive and high throughput DNA sequencing methods is opening the door to a greater understanding of the microorganisms that are a key component of soils. New research projects in the USDA-ARS-Plant Science Research Unit are focused on understanding the role of soil microbes in the rotation effect with the goal of enhancing and stabilizing the yield gains provided by crop rotation. The goals of our research are to identify the microbes associated with alfalfa roots and how the communities differ with location, soil fertility, and root system structure. In previous research at St. Paul, an alfalfa variety was developed that has numerous fine roots and a variety with very few fine roots. Plants were grown in three locations with different levels of potassium and phosphorus fertility. We are currently identifying the microbes associated with alfalfa roots under each condition. We will apply metagenomics to better understand which microbes contribute to disease resistance and soil fertility in association with alfalfa and other forage crops.