The impact of the rhizosphere microbiota on root system development and tolerance to environmental constraints in cereals

Thematic Areas: 
Crop productivity and diversification
Problem Overview: 
Cereals, as well as most crop plants, are sensitive to or poorly tolerant of soil salinity. Globally, about 10% of the soils are affected by salinity. Furthermore, about 10 million ha are lost every year due to soil salinization resulting from irrigation with poor quality water. Salinization due to irrigation mainly concerns semi-arid and arid regions.

Due to the high evapotranspiration rates, soil water deficits are often associated with salinity stress which frequently constrains crop yields in Mediterranean countries. In these conditions, the irrigation does not appear as a sustainable and effective solution, having the effect to exacerbate the problem of soil salinization. Decreasing of soil quality due to desertification and erosion is a concern in Mediterranean agriculture and its expansion to meet growing food needs. Moreover, root establishment in poor soils is essential to ensure full use of available water. The root system is responsible for nutrient and water acquisition. 

Purpose: 
Cereals like durum wheat, barley, sorghum and pearl millet are major crops contributing to food security for poor farmers in arid regions of the world. Genomic knowledge and a number of biotechnological tools are available for these species (transformation techniques, transcriptomics tools, etc.) and the sequencing of their genome is in progress. The couple host/microbial strain showing improved salt stress tolerance will be characterized for the cellular bases of root development, root meristem, and crown and lateral root development. The microbial activities based on root exudation will be determined. Microbial strains stimulated in the different rhizospheric contexts, will have their genome completely sequenced. This project aims at providing tools and knowledge to identify the cellular and molecular bases for root development in durum wheat/barley/pearl millet and the interaction with the rhizosphere microbiota. This will accelerate the breeding of new varieties with better adaptation to environmental constraints.
Partners: 
KAUST
Timeline: 
January, 2015 to December, 2017
Geographical Scope: 
Middle East and North Africa