The Use Of Fungal And Diazotrophic Endophytes As A Means For Climate Change Mitigation And Adaptation In Agroeco

Research Sponsored By: USDA
Principal Investigator: Sharon Doty
Project Description
By utilizing beneficial microbial plant symbionts to increase water use efficiency, provide essential nutrients, and improve plant growth and stress tolerance, the overall goal of this project is to develop tangible options to mitigate climate change impacts on agriculture and forestry more quickly than could be reached by relying solely on crop improvement approaches via breeding or transgenics. Using corn, rice, and Douglas-fir as model systems, we will 1) develop the most effective nitrogen-fixing endophytes for improved growth with minimal need for chemical fertilizers; 2) screen fungal endophytes to impart stress tolerance and increased water use efficiency; 3) assess the significance of endophytic symbiosis in mitigating the impacts of climate change; and 4) develop outreach programs and educational opportunities to insure that the knowledge gained in this research is widely disseminated. Through this study, we will develop optimized inoculum and methods for improved plant growth, stress tolerance, biomass, and yield of grain crops and timber forests with limited inputs of nutrients and water. Elevated CO2 stimulates crop growth most when N and water are not limiting. Thus, plants with symbiotic N fixation are most likely to capitalize on the benefits of increasing atmospheric CO2. We will evaluate the physiological benefits of the endophytic symbionts identified from Aim 1 and 2 under current and elevated CO2 conditions. Utilizing process-based crop physiology models and life cycle assessments, we will then evaluate agro-ecological and economic benefits of the use of endophytic symbionts. Outreach and dissemination of the research findings will also be a priority, through our teaching both at the university level and to K-12 groups and teachers, training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, speaking frequently at international conferences, participation in key roles in the International Symbiosis Society, and engaging the agricultural community directly.