Reversing Industrialization: the Future of Plants?

Is it possible that the microbiomes of ancestors of our crops can be used to “rewild” microbiomes of current crops reinstating their diverse microbiota that were lost through domestication and industrialization processes, including including the (over)use of antibiotics, pesticides, and fertilizers?

Similar to reversing industrialization-associated changes in human gut microbiota , plant microbiome rewilding builds on the premise that wild ancestors harbor microbial genera with specific traits that are not found (or are strongly depleted) in the microbiome of modern crops. To date, however, it is unknown for most plant species whether (and which) microbial genera and functions were lost during plant domestication, and to what extent rewilding can enhance the health and sustainability of modern crops. In animal systems, the effectiveness of rewilding approaches is intensely debated , and similar discussions are needed for crop rewilding approaches.

Plant domestication is one of the most important accomplishments in human history, helping drive the transition from a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle. Through stepwise processes, crop plants acquired a suite of new traits, including larger seeds, determinate growth, photoperiod sensitivity, and reduced levels of bitter substances. Although this led to a more continuous food supply, domestication caused a reduction in plant genetic diversity because only desired alleles were spread, while genomic regions next to the target genes suffered selective sweeps (6). This so-called “domestication syndrome” decreased the ability of crops to withstand pests and diseases

Excerpts from JOS M. RAAIJMAKERS AND E. TOBY KIERM, Microbiota of crop ancestors may offer a way to enhance sustainable food production, Science, Nov. 11, 2022

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